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DOWNLOAD ½ Alas Babylon ✓ Alas Babylon Those fateful words heralded the end When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight and tens of millions of people are killed instantly But for one small town in Florida miraculously spared the struggle is just beginning as men and women of all backgrouIlization are stripped away overnight and tens of millions of people are killed instantly But for one small town in Florida. “Terrified at her torment they will stand off and cry ‘Woe Woe to you great city you mighty city of Babylon In one hour your doom has come’” The Book of Revelation 1810“Yesterday was a past period in history with laws and rules archaic as ancient Rome’s Today the rules had changed just as Roman law gave way to atavistic barbarism as the empire fell to Hun and Goth Today a man saved himself and his family and to hell with everyone else” Pat Frank Alas Babylon“We can’t do this Every man for himself is not going to workIf we can’t live together we’re going to die alone” Matthew Fox as Jack Shepherd Lost Season 1 Episode 5When I picked up Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon I didn't have super high hopes for its uality It was curiosity mostly that led me to it The novel published in 1959 tells the story of the Florida town of Fort Repose which is spared a direct hit during a nuclear war and must then survive the aftermath Fans of the short lived television series Jericho will find this setting familiar As someone with an interest in the Cold War as well as nuclear arms and strategy Alas Babylon promised to provide some insights into the contemporary thoughts and fears of people living through that period It’s one thing to read a nonfiction volume on the evolving atomic arsenals strategies and diplomatic brinkmanship of the United States and Soviet Union It’s another thing entirely to see how those realities manifest themselves within ordinary citizens otherwise powerless and forgotten against a vast geopolitical backdrop Maybe it was the managed expectations but I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked it and on how many levels Roughly the first hundred pages of Alas Babylon are devoted to the lead up to war which I found fascinating I’ve read my share of nuclear war novels and many of them skip this part entirely Books such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or William Brinkley’s The Last Ship focus almost entirely on the aftermath of war referring to precipitating incidents only elliptically if at all Frank uses a different tactic He shows us life in small Fort Repose introducing us to a handful of characters we will get to know under duress Meanwhile he occasionally breaks away to the Mediterranean or Strategic Air Command to give us fleeting images of the rising tension between the US and USSR It’s arguable I suppose whether Frank needed to devote nearly one third of this relatively short novel just 316 pages to setting up a war we know is going to happen I don’t agree with that position There is a difference as Hitchcock would agree between surprise and suspense No the outbreak of nuclear war is not a surprise However there is still suspense to be had even though we know what’s coming Frank does a good job of presenting the creeping dread that must have been palpable during events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis still in the future when this was published He demonstrates how helpless people must have felt in the face of such a catastrophe Like many people I have control issues Can you imagine the desperation you’d feel if men you’d never met in locations you’d never been for reasons entirely unknown to you were making decisions that might end the world Frank imagines it and it’s effective Once the bombs start falling and the missiles flying the central character a military veteran named Randolph Bragg has a back row seat to the end times it should go without saying that those with a front row seat were incinerated A stark white flash enveloped their world Randy felt the heat on his neck Peyton Randy’niece cried out and covered her face with her hands In the southwest in the direction of Tampa St Petersburg and Sarasota another unnatural sun was born much larger and infinitely fiercer than the sun in the eastA thick red pillar erected itself in the southwest its base the unnatural sun The top of the pillar billowed outward This time the mushroom was there There was no sound except Peyton’s whimpering Her fists were pressed into her eyes A bird plunged against the screen and dropped to earth trailed by drifting feathers Within the pillar and the cloud fantastic colors played Red changed to orange glowed white became red again Green and purple ropes twisted upward through the pillar and spread tentacles through the cloud The gaudy mushroom enlarged with incredible speed angry poisonous malignant It grew until the mushroom’s rim looked like the leading edge of an approaching weather front black purple orange green a cancerous man created line suallAfter the attack Frank writes “civilization in Fort Repose retreated a hundred years” When nuclear fireballs crisped Orlando and the power plants serving Timucuan County refrigeration stopped along with electric cooking The oil furnaces sparked by electricity died All radios were useless unless battery powered or in automobiles Washing machines dryers dishwashers fryers toasters roasters vacuum cleaners shavers heaters beaters – all stopped So did the electric clocks vibrating chairs electric blankets irons for pressing clothes curlers for hair The electric pumps stopped and when the pumps stopped the water stopped and when the water stopped the bathrooms ceased functioningFrom there Alas Babylon takes on the form of something very familiar and timeless It is tale of survival and adventure The Swiss Family Robinson mixed with elements of Fallout and The Walking Dead though lacking any mutants or zombies Randy and the people around him among them his sister in law; her kids; a doctor; a retired admiral must find a safe water supply stockpile food trade supplies and protect themselves from the human wolves traveling over a ravaged countryside Alas Babylon works splendidly on this level Ordinary people have to band together Problems need to be solved Society has to be reordered Courage must be found Hope must be maintained Whether you set this story in a post Armageddon township or a deserted island or an island you think is deserted but actually is not there is plenty of drama to be found As I mentioned above Alas Babylon has other levels Most obviously it operates as what the sci fi author David Brin has called a “self preventing prophecy” Like Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and Eugene Burdick’s Fail Safe Frank’s purpose in writing this was to warn people He wanted to get the attention of the masses and by extension the attention of their elected officials It is pretty neat with the hindsight that comes from the world not ending in the fires of a thousand suns to catch a glimpse of the 1959 mindset For instance Frank is uite concerned with the so called “missile gap” that John Kennedy trumpeted on his way to the White House We know now that this gap did not exist But knowing this after the fact does not change how it must have felt at the time to believe it did Frank unwittingly captures that Alas Babylon is a product of its time in ways that go beyond its knowledge of Civil Defense preparations and the shortcomings of the Conelrad emergency broadcasting system It is set in the South five years after Brown vs the Board of Education so its racial views are a bit complicated Certain of the characters express abhorrent views and use abhorrent language that was typical of the time and place I say this without meaning to imply that this has magically disappeared from the world To Frank’s credit Randy is not an out and out white supremacist He is described as abiding by the Supreme Court decision in Brown so at the least he is not a segregationist He has black neighbors who play prominent roles in the story They are stereotyped to be sure but most of the characters are stereotyped to an extent taking on the shorthand roles we expect from this type of tale eg the virtuous doctor the spunky kid the selfish hoarder There is also a strain of paternalism running through the novel There are several female characters some of whom are relatively well rounded to be fair this is not a character study; with the exception of Randy no one is plumbed for depth However there is than one occasion where a character muses how the womenfolk would survive without their men The tone of Alas Babylon is one of grim hopefulness that stands in contrast to the fatalism of The Road or On the Beach The stark realities of a ruined world are made visible it is terrifying how uickly they run out of booze but Frank’s characters seldom lose heart He presents the classic tableau where the worst of mankind is balanced by the best of mankind; where man’s ingenuity for destruction is matched by an ingenuity for rebuilding There are themes to touch on elements to discuss but in the end strange to say Alas Babylon works because it is fun to read There is something fundamentally enjoyable about watching disparate men and women come together under unimaginable stress to solve problems They are in a sense MacGyver ing a new country for themselves with shoe strings paper clips and elbow grease In the face of an unimaginable horror they must discover new sources of sustenance heal themselves without modern medicines and perhaps most importantly find a way to distill their own liuor

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Miraculously spared the struggle is just beginning as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darknes. UPDATED below in honor of a GR reading groupA satisfying account of a community surviving a nuclear Holocaust in isolation from the rest of the world It was written in 1959 so it set a precedent for all the apocalypse literature that followed Instead of the perhaps plausible temporary survival of human society in Nevil Chute's On the Beach this tale of a rural central Florida community blessed with favorable winds on the day the missiles fly makes the story one of a successful long term survival Special skills and resources of individuals in the community are all brought nicely to play in contributing to group survival An idea of humankind is a hero The hero's planning and leadership skills are needed and what he learned as a soldier becomes important This man miraculously has skills learned while farming hunting fishing and doing engineering which the community needs for food and shelter challenges In the time since Armageddon the forces of evolution have been intense and these winners at survival are the cream of the human crop Community teamwork assumes a promising form in some senses a utopia of collaboration Problems are being solved and these descendents of survivors look pretty good at it Key tasks of civilization include keeping transportation operational for the doctor power for a shortwave radio and library operations for entertainmenteducation Finding a source of salt and new sources of food such as armadillos are successful innovations Defense against mauraders is a minor but important part of the tale course there is a love story behind the scenes By the time the remnant government in Colorado contacts the community they feel confident of continuing on This isn't great literature but a worthwhile part of the body of science fiction on human response to apocalypseUpdateSo what happened to Frank Why was he a one hit wonder On the 50th anniversary of Alas Babylon's publication in 2009 the year I read and wrote the review a nice story came out profiling the gifts of Frank His early demise at 57 had contributions from excessive alcohol intake His background included work as reporter in FLorida then as a war correspondent who also did intelligence tasks for the CIA precursor OSS He is depicted as victim of his own success and perpetrator of his decline from too much of the high life A uote from his brother is forgiving “He was bigger than life” says his daughter Perry Frank “bigger than the problems he had” Florida Times Union storySo how does this early post apocalyptic tale fare in the lineup of outstanding books in this genre that I have happened to be noursished by Of the 29 I read Alas Babylon on my pleasure meter was in the middle Good bedfellows at 4 stars was The Windup Girl and On the Beach So what moved me to 5 starsSince you asked they were Engine Summer 1983 and a bunch recent efforts why did I not even think to list 1952's When Worlds Collide Oryx and Crake Ship Breaker Blindness Cloud Atlas Railsea and Railsea So Alas Babylon has some lasting value for me but there has been a lot of creative juices at work in this genre since 1959 I'm sure you have some other favorites Apocalyptic means zombies these days but I missed a lot of those World War Z did not appeal and The Passage untried

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Alas BabylonAlas Babylon Those fateful words heralded the end When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States a thousand years of civ. ”And the kings of the earth who have committed fornicationand lived deliciously with her shall bewail her and lament forher when they shall see the smoke of her burningStanding afar off for the fear of her torment sayingAlas alas that great city Babylon that mighty city for in onehour is thy judgment come “ Revelations The cover art of the American First Edition from 1959Randy Bragg comes from a long line of prestigious individuals He unfortunately has never found a way to live up to the family name He has some ambition He isn’t a wastrel He just isn’t sure what he is supposed to do with his life He served in Korea and came back with his uniform weighed down with medals He recently ran for a political position but was soundly trounced His family name would have won it for him but his honesty about his liberal politics in a conservative Central Florida district made him easy pickings for his opponent He is floundering And then he receives a telegram from his brother Mark who is currently assigned to a strategic air base in Omaha Alas BabylonThe code word they’d used since they were young lads to indicate that something was seriously wrong Mark sends his family to be with Randy Like a bone reader or a truth sayer Mark has assembled the pieces of information he has collected from conversations field reports and radio freuency chatter A war is coming ”Within the pillar and the cloud fantastic colors played Red changed to orange glowed white became red again Green and purple ropes twisted upward through the pillar and spread tentacles through the cloud The gaudy mushroom enlarged with incredible speed angry poisonous malignant It grew until the mushroom’s rim looked like the leading edge of an approaching weather front black purple orange green a cancerous man created line suall” The Soviet Union and the United States have done the unthinkable Cities wink out one by one as both sides hit the other with everything they have In Fort Repose it becomes very real after the electricity goes out ”In four months” Randy said “we’ve regressed four thousand years More maybe Four thousand years ago the Egyptians and Chinese were civilized”There is a run on the bank Merchants have vaults full of cash after they sell all their merchandise but you can’t eat money It has about the same value as Confederate script or a year old newspaper Everyone tries to think about what they will need Food of courseWaterGasolineBut do you think of tires or coffee or medicineFort Repose as it turns out is strategically located far enough away from the big cities that received these megaton explosions They were also lucky the wind blew in the right direction They have fruit and nut groves so nature will provide them with a source of food There are fish in the river and crabs if you know where to find them Did you think about salt If you are a doctor who can you save People who need medicine to survive are uickly winnowed out of the population People who can’t cope are committing suicide Instead of having babies women are having miscarriages Nature is making some decisions ”It is said that nature is cruel I don’t think so Nature is just and even merciful By natural selection nature will attempt to undo what man has done”Carpe Diem Seize the Day as the recently departed Robin Williams extorted his students to embrace in Dead Poets Society There is a dark side to this concept and that would be those people who live for today and don’t worry about tomorrow They have to seize everyday by stealing from those that have planned for a future killing those that oppose them and for entertainment raping those they desire This works for a while but fortunately most people prefer a civilization where they can plan for a future and can exist in a reasonable modicum of safety Randy Bragg finds himself in the leadership position he tried to win through the ballot box He forms a vigilante group and starts to win back control of a future for all by taking it away from the few willing to use violence to intimidate Pat Frank looking very studiousThis was a hugely influential book when it was published in 1959 It continues to be listed as one of the best science fiction books of all time The fifties spawned a lot of great apocalyptic novels because the threat of our imminent demise from those “crazy” Russians was on everyone’s mind There are moments of violence but for the most part Fort Repose feels like a small town that has been cut off from everything rather than a town in the midst of a terrifying post apocalyptic situation In 1959 I’m sure it was very unnerving to read but for me in 2015 it felt like a jaunt in Winesburg Ohio I do think that Pat Frank had a tiger by the tail and he brought it home put it in a cage started feeding it and turned that tiger into a house cat There was the potential for a truly great novel that transcends the genre but everything wraps up with a wiffle rather than a bang If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at