Saturday, September 21, 2013

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon
A couple of months ago, someone recommended two books to me, books that are -- or so I was told, great classics of science fiction. Never having read either of them, I decided I'd better check them out.

The first book was The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham. Of course, I'd seen the movie version long ago, and found it mildly entertaining.

I gave the novel a try and got about a third of the way through it before I decided that life was just to short to spend any more of it reading this book.

The other book was Alas, BabylonAs you can imagine, I wasn't in any hurry to get to it.

But I picked it up this month, and I was amazed. It's a wonderful book. It's a post-apocalyptic novel first published in 1959, during the height of the Cold War, but if I didn't know better, I would swear it was a "historical" novel written recently -- absolutely nothing dated about it at all.

Well, I guess I'll take that back. There were two aspects of the book that seemed dated, reading it today. One involved gender roles, but they were really pretty typical of the 1950's and the narrator seemed to realize that they were outdated. The other aspect was the attitude toward nuclear fallout and radiation. It seems positively unreal to me that the characters didn't worry about it much -- at least to start with -- but they I remember the Civil Defense drills I experienced as a child in the 60's. (Unlike most other schools, we didn't actually dive under our desks, but we were marched down stand in lines in the basement.)

Altogether, an excellent book, and one I would heartily recommend. It was, I should probably mention, a little on the optimistic side, even to the point of being unrealistic, but that's not always a bad thing. On the Beach  is another excellent, vintage post-apocalyptic work (published in 1957), and it just depressed the heck out of me.

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