PJ’s QUICKIE POV:
In my further quest for Post-Apocalyptic goodness my frequent Google searches led me to another book, ALAS, BABYLON. What is more apocalyptic than nuclear war? This is a man made disaster, so much more tragic than anything that Mother Nature could do to us. I was eager to read and my eagerness paid off. This is a classic gem that came out in the 50s but still holds fervor in today’s chaotic political climate. The Cold War might be over, but a lunatic with a nuclear warhead is still just as scary. I highly recommend this read for fans of the genre, unlike others in league this one is a triumphant read, one with hope that imbues an innocent, yet proud nature that was inherent in the generation it was penned. This was also an audio book download and the narrator Will Patton, while dated in voice, did an excellent job.
ALAS, BABYLON takes place in the height of the Cold War, 1959. I remember hearing stories from my father and grandmother that children went through nuclear strike drills in school. It was a dark shroud that hung upon the heads of every American of this generation. In the world of ALAS, BABYLON that ball drops – and nuclear war does happen. The main character is Randy Bragg, a young man living in Fort Repose, Florida. He is the younger brother of an Air Force Colonel, Mark Bragg. In one very cryptic message, that ends with “Alas, Babylon” Randy knows that his world is about to change drastically. Colonel Mark Bragg is stationed at Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska, better know as SAC (The Strategic Air Command) headquarters. He is a man that is in the know about the enemy. Tell-tale signs and reports out of the USSR are not good. He expects the worse. Omaha will be a number one target for USSR strikes so he is sending his wife and children to Randy who is in a non-strike area. There is nothing that Mark Bragg can do but get his family to safety, being an officer he must remain at his post.
Preparing for the worst, Randy, shoddily and hurriedly gathers supplies – but he can not be prepared for what happens. No one can. The strike happens within hours of the Bragg family arriving. Miami is taken out, Orlando – cities are wiped off the planet all around Fort Repose, yet their remote locale keeps the small town safe. Now the survivors must band together to stay safe, gather food and supplies as all of the modern conveniences are instantly taken away from them.
A superb portrayal of one man’s struggle for survival as he fights for his life and the people around him. The uniqueness of this novel was also in the fact that the group of survivors also tried to retain their dignity and morals as they were plunged into the dark ages. I cite this as unique, because most post-apocalyptic novels will show the characters doing anything to survive – they throw away their morals, even if deeply religious giving credence to their new code “I’m doing it to survive.” Yet, the survivors in ALAS, BABYLON maintained their dignity. They helped their neighbors, they maintained order, all out of a sense of purpose and respect. Which is why I call this a triumphant novel. The author painted a very poignant picture and gave us a hopeful message, that while the world may be crumbling around us, in the end we are all human beings that deserve to be treated with respect unless proven otherwise. Some, might call this naive, but I would hope that if the world did crumble that I met Randy Bragg in the chaos and not other heros from the post-apocalyptic books I’ve been reading.
Distaste comes from other readers of this book because of Randy Bragg’s take on certain aspects. While I don’t agree with his opinion of certain political, racial and social views, I do understand that he is a man of the 50s and this book, published in 1959 is a product of that era. This book was written during the onset of the civil rights movement, before women flooded the work-force and political correctness took root in modern literature. This being so, Randy Bragg might seem a bit ego-centric to readers that are not used to this sort of generation piece. So, be prepared for dated views on racial issues and women’s lib. Yet, underneath his, as I’ve heard described as “Paleolithic social views” I really thought Randy Bragg was a great character and did what he had to do to help the people around him, black, white, female, male, old or young. ALAS, BABYLON is a great read and should be appreciated for it’s tale and not for it’s occasional use of the N word. I’m sure fifty years down the line teenagers will be reading our modern lit and calling us barbarians and politically inept. Yet, because of this generational gap, there is a stand-offishness that a reader feels towards a character, so you don’t connect as well as you would in a modern piece, thus a 4.5 rater, instead of a 5.
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