Reviewed date: 2004 Dec 15
In 1959 the Cold War turns hot. The war lasts one day.
Randy Bragg is fortunate to live in small-town Florida. The bombs fall near, but not too near; favorable winds may keep radioactive fallout at bay until the worst is over. Randy and his ragged band of family and friends have a few supplies, but to survive in the long term they must live off the land. And with the complete breakdown of civilization in America comes a return to more primitive times: lawlessness, chaos, and human depravity.
Alas, Babylon resonates more among those who have lived with the daily terror of looming nuclear armageddon. The full strength of the novel is lost on those who--like me--grew up after the Cold War. But fear not, Alas, Babylon is an excellent book for readers of any age.
In the genre of apocalyptic fiction a few books stand out above all others: Earth Abides, by George O. Stewart; A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller; and Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank. You could do worse than to read them.
I never rate a book a score of 5 until I have read it twice. Alas, Babylon is, along with the two novels mentioned above, a candidate for a score of 5.