Book Review: Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank (1959)

by fwhagen Fri, 25 September 2009

Ok, last review was a little over the top.  I should have called it:  The 21st Century's Alas, Babylon.  This book is credited as inspiration to One Second After and with good reason.  Having never read it, I thought it was time.

"The Day" is the one when the bombs fall.  Although we meet our hero Randy Bragg, native of Central Florida (just north of Orlando), and his brother Mark, who serves in Intelligence for SAC, a few weeks before.  Mark warns Randy of an impending attack and sends his wife and kids to stay with him to weather the threat, giving them all some time to prepare.  The threat is realized when the morning skies are lit up in the direction of Tampa, then less so from Daytona and Miami.  And all doubt is erased when the nuclear strike on Orlando itself and the resulting mushroom cloud is unmistakable.  The rest of the book is the story of a small community fighting for survival in the Florida "Contaminated Zone".

Set in the late '50s, it has an interesting perspective for me, knowing Orlando 30 years later.  The references to McCoy Air Force Base (now Orlando International Airport), Pinecastle and the St. John's River are enjoyable and interesting landmarks.  This is also a well thought out and written book, although not as grim as One Second After, and the characters seemed a bit flat to me as well.  Both these comments, though, are to be expected for a book written 50 years ago.  I found some details, such as the abundance of food, and the town rallying behind the leadership of a man all felt previously to be a amusing playboy, to be disappointing.  But it was a very enjoyable read and was significant for its times, if not so much today.

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