Alas, Babylon

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Phoenix

Active Member
Messages
622
Alas, Babylon

http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue87/classic.html

Review by Mark Wilson

he mutual fear and loathing shared by the United States and the Soviet Union during the worst years of the Cold War was invented by governments; but the insanity of nuclear proliferation still had the the power to taint the everyday lives of ordinary people. The hideous prospect of a sudden, irreversible wave of radioactive death was as omnipresent as the sky, and as difficult to face as the sun.

Like any small town in America in the late 1950s, the sleepy river community of Fort Repose, Fla., found ways to ignore the threat most of the time. Randolph Bragg, the languid young descendant of the town's founder, and his neighbors--a typically Floridian mix of proud locals and Yankee transplants--persisted in an easy confidence that nuclear war couldn't really happen, even as the news on the radio--always bad--becomes alarming. Then, suddenly, The Day arrives. All at once the 20th century comes crashing down, and the nightmare of survival begins.

Though tipped off to the coming Apocalypse by his brother in the Air Force (using their childhood code for disaster, the \"Alas, Babylon!\" thundered by the fire-and-brimstone local preacher), Randy still has no idea how to meet the crisis. He can only be thankful for the realization, slow in coming to most of his neighbors, that he must discard his casual approach to life and reinvent himself, or ***. The disintegration of the American way of life escalates before his eyes: food vanishes, gasoline becomes gold, and money is worthless paper. Abandoned pets revert to wild animals, vicious cutthroats spring up on the roads, and nearby towns become sinkholes of disease and squalor. Contact with the outside world dwindles to nothing. With that isolation comes the need to hold together the only society left to them: Fort Repose.
Rediscovering humanity

Speculative fiction usually imagines a future progressing forward. But Alas, Babylon deals with a future jerked the other way, where people living in the present are thrown back into primitive times. The novel's original impetus was a flat homily on the unwinnability of nuclear war, but surprisingly it is the characters of Alas, Babylon that bring the story alive. They create a galvanizing tale of human perseverance and growth far more interesting than the political lesson the story set out to impart.

In fact, Alas, Babylon's picture of post-apocalypse life is strangely compelling. Once an unmotivated loner whose relative wealth allowed him to play at being an attorney, Randy becomes not only harder and leaner but more vital and alive. The privations endured in the first few months and years after the disaster purify him. His life, cleansed of 20th-century dissolutions and recrafted with tomato-ketchup and toil, becomes profoundly worth living. He takes charge not only of himself but of his community, bringing it back from the brink of savagery and desperation. Part of the author's subtext may be that the complacency of entitled society has helped create a world in which it is possible for nations to destroy each other; but the result is powerful character development.

More surprisingly, this 40-year-old story about the long-dead Cold War is still fresh and provocative. The story's vividness and honesty make it possible to imagine what it would be like to live in a world after bombs have destroyed the cities and unraveled the fabric of every day life. It's discomforting, and it becomes more discomforting in the context of the string of fortunate conditions and coincidences that make Fort Repose fare better than the average isolated town. These people go through hell--and they're the lucky ones.
A nice touch: The way that pre-war conventions like racism dissolve with few words said. A good read. -- Mark
 

TheOrangeMan

Junior Member
Messages
34
Alas, Babylon

Amazon Link

Above is the link to the book Alas Babylon. I have never read the book but hear it is amazingly close to Titor. There?s a few differences? one customer wrote an excellent review. Sometimes reviews rotate? so the review is posted below. I highlighted some stuff I felt was similar.


In \"Alas, Babylon,\" Pat Frank has created what was once considered a highly realistic vision of rural America, as seen after a major nuclear war. At least he tried to get people thinking about this \"unthinkable\" topic, which makes him a better human being than most of us. However, readers today really need to think about how dated this story actually is.

The basic tale is of a small town in rural Florida, and how it is transformed by the sudden obliteration of our national economy. Due to a combination of wind patterns, geography, and unbelievable good fortune, radiation is hardly even an issue to the denizens of the lucky town. The only people who suffer radiation illness are those who foolishly venture too close to the cratered ruins of various vaporized cities. Because radiation is not a significant problem, this book should best be considered to be a study of how folks might cope in the event of an unprecedented Depression, with the added factors of total, permanent cessation of public utilities; decaying roads; and the advent of lawless behavior on a scale unseen since the days of the wild west.

The main character is a man named Randy Bragg, who is getting close to early middle age. He learns of the impending war by way of a telegram, from a brother in the armed forces. The telegram simply reads \"Alas, Babylon,\" which to the biblically literate brothers is a pre-arranged sign, a signal that a major nuclear war is almost definitely on the way. He heroically starts trying to take precautions for his loved ones, by stocking up on supplies, but tragically lacks the foresight to understand that most of his supplies will be unable to be preserved, without electricity. As the story unfolds, we encounter further unpleasant, unforeseen situations -- no running water; no toilets; no way to keep insulin cooled, for diabetics; no smallpox vaccines; no spare food for dogs, or other ways to keep them from becoming feral; when a pair of glasses is broken, there's no way to get a new pair... the list goes on and on. Eventually, this story shows its stripes as a product of the 1950s, and develops a plot that could have been tailor-made for John Wayne. A group of highway brigands starts spreading havoc, and Randy Bragg and his fearless cohorts must stage an ambush. This plotline gives much of the feeling of a \"story\" to this sequence of events.

Although I salute Pat Frank for writing this book, I give it three stars only because it is hopelessly outdated for todays reader. I myself am no expert in nuclear war, but even I can see at least three or four major problems with this book. NONE of the problems are Pat Frank's fault in ANY way. They simply concern developments, in scientific understanding of nuclear war scenarios, that have come about since the 1950s, when this book was written. For example, how about the Electro-Magnetic Pulse, or EMP? In the 1950s, no one understood that a single large nuclear bomb, if detonated two to three hundred miles above the United States, would generate an electro-magnetic pulse which would turn every computer, every database, every electronic appliance in the country into junk. This event alone would destroy our economy - no electronic credit records would survive, no banking or medical records on databases, etc.

Or how about nuclear winter? No one in the 1950s knew anything about the topic. It hadn't been considered by scientists. What about increased ultraviolet radiation, from damage to the ozone layer? What about chemical changes in our very atmosphere, caused by toxic clouds from burning cities? Finally, I really have to take issue with the near-total lack of attention paid to radiation in this book. In a major conflict, it would be soooo much worse than this book implies.

If you'd like some better, more updated information about nuclear war, try reading Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Helen Caldicott's \"The New Nuclear Danger.\" It just came out a few months ago. For a book about nuclear winter, try reading \"The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War,\" by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich. If you'd just like to read some realistic, modern fiction about life after a nuclear conflict, try reading \"Warday: And the Journey Onward,\" by Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka, which was highly praised by U.S. Senators of both political parties, when it came out in 1984. Finally, I would like to urge you in the strongest possible terms to seek out a copy of the video \"Threads.\" \"Threads\" is an old BBC made-for-television docudrama, released in 1984, about the effects on an average little town of a nuclear war. You can usually find it on a major online auction house, by entering the terms \"threads\" and \"war\" in the search field.

Anyway, \"Alas, Babylon\" in ridiculously outdated, but at least it might start someone thinking. One tentative thumb up.

Found the description of the story quite interesting... what are your thoughts on this?
 

CaryP

Senior Member
Messages
1,438
Alas, Babylon

Yo OrangeMan,

The anomalies.net has made many references to "Alas Babylon" as being the basis of the Titor saga. They've beat it to death and then some there. My mother-in-law heard me say I wanted to read the book, after it showed up on my 13 yr. old daughter's reading list for summer. She gave it to me for father's day in June, and I haven't gotten close to finishing it. But from what I've heard, the story lines are very similar. You comin' on strong bro. That's a good thing. Keep the posts comin'.

Cary
 

Judge Bean

Senior Member
Messages
1,257
Alas, Babylon

There might be many sources for a hoaxed Titor narrative; and much of Titor can be found in crackpot politics from the past 40 years, including "militia" literature and other antigovernment material, and in The Twilight Zone episodes.

The question is, why would Titor retell it?
 

Judge Bean

Senior Member
Messages
1,257
Alas, Babylon

Originally posted by CaryP@Sep 16 2004, 10:05 PM
The question is, why would Titor retell it?

That is the $64 billion question my friend.

Cary

I think that the U.S. intelligence community's black budget is bigger than that.
 

StarLord

Senior Member
Messages
3,187
Alas, Babylon

Better yet, what is the real reason for creating such fiction in the first place?

What goal did the author of Alas, Babylon have for his work?

What hidden goal did the authors of Titor have? Will they reinvent another fictious spokes personage to repeat the same message or will the new message conform to the changes that have taken place after the first story came out?
 

StarLord

Senior Member
Messages
3,187
Alas, Babylon

What caused you to think about telling a story in the first place? What caused you to even consider that others would find it worthwhile reading? What are your parameters of 'a good story'? Would you be trying to say something between the lines or would it purely be for entertainment and have no other value?

Sure, there is the case of just writing for the pure pleasure of it, but I submit to you that even the innocent have a subconscious message to get out. Otherwise whats the sense in writting at all if not to share ideas wether they be ideas of great import or sublime tidbits?
 

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