Book Review: Alas, Babylon

I just re-read Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank ($10 @ Amazon). It’s a bit of a touchstone for me. It was a favorite book of my father, and so reading it again is a chance to both revisit the story and to recall spending time with him.

It’s an old book, published in 1959, and it’s about the Cold War turning hot. It’s set in Central Florida in a town not much different than where I was raised. We get to see things before the war, and then the unthinkable, a real nuclear war. The main character Randy Bragg has to change from being not too serious to altogether serious when he has take care of the family of his brother, an Air Force officer presumed dead in the war but with no way to know.

It’s a little Robinson Crusoe. No power, very limited fuel, things that seemed all so important now pail compared to the need for things as simple as salt and sugar. They learn to grow things, to figure out how to catch fish even in the hottest day of Florida summer, and they learn that some would rather take than work. Hard decisions, such as deciding when to use a dwindling and non-renewal supply of medicines. Some adapt, some don’t. In many ways it’s the story of any war, dealing with unknowns.

It’s a story with a reasonably happy ending, both in the book and in real life. We survived the Cold War, a time that seems to have faded into the past quickly – and maybe that’s not all bad. Yet, maybe it’s good that we do think about it a little now and then.