Sep 30, 2008

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon

This one really echos my own thoughts about what to do if I wind up in a cut off, survivalist situation. For one, it's set in Florida, near and dear to my heart. Assuming (huge assumption here) that the water, air, and land isn't poisoned, I figure we'll be better off down here compared to most of the nation. Fish, veggies year round, oranges further south, plenty of critters to trap or shoot (although I'd have to be pretty hungry to chow down on armadillo), plus we have the advantage of no real killing cold.

On the other hand, do I think that, for instance, black folks would continue to be quietly subservient simply on the basis of that being the natural order? Well, I should hope to god not. I suspect that many of the post-nuclear novels of the 50s and 60s assumed a lot about society and how certain things would fall out that are more hopeful on the (generally white and often government or military associated) authors' part than likely.

That being said, my favorite part of this sort of novel is generally just seeing how different people react to the crisis. Who commits suicide, who rises to the occasion, who goes nutballs, who happens to come up with a new and interesting way to keep their world rolling along? And that's what most of Alas, Babylon is concerned with.

This is one of the few post-WW III type books I've read in which "We won it. We really clobbered 'em!" But even that is tempered with the statement, regarding the devastating effects of nuclear war, "Not that it matters." Just because the warning involved here is "save aside some chocolate and coffee for after the apocalypse" rather than "we will all be dead within months" doesn't make it any less a tale of the end of the world as we know it.

final thought: When the big one pops off, I'm moving down to Tate's Hell.


JRSM said...

I liked this one a lot, though I couldn't help feeling Frank didn't quite understand just how serious the results of a full-scale nuclear war would be: things would fall apart a lot faster and a hell of a lot more thoroughly than he suggests, I would think. Still, a very involving book.

downtown guy said...

I sort of had the same feeling. There's no way you'd wind up with a happy little radiation-free oasis in the middle of large-scale destruction like that. But if you can suspend disbelief a little, it's an interesting story told well.