Alan Winston, July 15, 2010 (view all comments by Alan Winston)
I read this book when its apocalyptic visions were current and frightening, shortly after the first paperback edition came out in 1960; I read it again after the 35th anniversary edition came out in 1993, and was pleasantly surprised how well it had held up. I returned to it again recently after rereading Nevil Shute's "On the Beach," and again am quite surprised at how well it sustains its value, even though it was written to describe contemporary issues and technology of the late 1950s. There may be a certain quaintness about some aspects, some unfortunate racial and gender biases of the era - reported, not endorsed - in others, but I found that those informed and reminded of where we were more than they detracted. Having recently watched, or re-watched, both video versions of "On the Beach," I think "Alas, Babylon" could make a good film project in today's world. Certainly it is worth reading (or rereading) for the fiftieth anniversary of the first paperback edition.
weidmakm, January 29, 2010 (view all comments by weidmakm)
Alas, Babylon is THE post-apocalyptic novel. First published in 1959, it remains the standard by which all other nuclear holocaust novels should be judged. The writing is accessible and easy, the language is compelling. The characters feel real, and we as readers feel for them. Their sorrows are our sorrows, and their triumphs are our trimuphs.
Starting about 48 hours before the Soviet Union and United States lauch massive nuclear strikes against one another, the novel follows protagonist Randy Bragg and other residents of Fort Repose, Florida in their efforts to survive and rebuild their lives and communities. Suddenly, the most basic amenities are a struggle, and life becomes both much more simple, and much, much harder. Survival is an uphill battle as the residents struggle with limited medical care, limited food, and the ever-present fear of radioactive fallout. Suddenly everything is potentially lethal, and some rise to the challenge, other give up, and still other revert to lawlessness. Still, there is hope, love, and birth.
It is important to note that Alas, Babylon was written in the late 1950s and some elements of the language reflect that. Though forward for the time it was written (the protagonist is very vocal about advancing desegregation), race relations are clearly strained, and the language reflects the time. The technology, of course, also reflects the 1950s. Even so, Alas, Babylon is as relevant now--or possibly more so--as it was 50 years ago.
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