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Alas, Babylon: A Novel (Harper Perennial Olive Edition) Paperback – September 29, 2015
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"Ingenious...Provocative." -- "New York Times""Frighteningly credible and exciting reading." -- "Library Journal""An extraordinary real picture of human beings numbed by catastrophe but still driven by the unconquerable determination of living creatures to keep on being alive." -- "The New Yorker""A warm, continuously interesting story of what can happen to a group of ordinary people in a perilous situation." -- "New York Herald Tribune""An enthralling and vivid story of the follies and failures of people, their courage and cruelty, their treachery and triumphs. Mr. Frank is a magnificent writer." -- "Chicago Sunday Tribune""Frank is successful enough in making us believe it could indeed happen here to send a small, fearful chill along our backbone." -- "Saturday Review"
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Top customer reviews
There are flaws here. Many characters are one dimensional, and the work definitely shows its age in regards to social mores and family values. The ending also falls a bit flat, but the core of the story has enough to keep you going. Word of warning: if you're looking for an action packed adventure, this is not it. Alas, Babylon is a thought piece on what might really happen if the world as we know it were to end or change immensely in a single day.
The editing was distracting with many misspellings and typos, but that's the small exchange for the low cost & instant gratification of reading on a Kindle.
The first is that this novel reminds us of mankind's near infinite capacity for self-destruction, or at least creating the mechanism for it. Osama bin Laden and his fellow psychopaths could only dream of the systematic cruelty the Soviet Union perpetrated on its own citizens, let alone the tightrope nuclear balance of terror that the superpowers walked. However, they are cut from the same cloth, and it is lunacy to try to co-exist with them. Moreover, the rationalization of the irrational, the attempt to explain the unexplainable (for instance how both the US and the USSR created strategies to "win" a nuclear war) can only lead to heartache.
Secondly, and most important, "Alas Babylon" reminds us of the indomitable spirit of man. Even as his characters struggle to grasp some normalcy from incomprehensible nuclear destruction, they cling to that which makes them human: hope, love and faith. While some may find it odd to be reading apocalyptic fiction in this time of war, I found this novel to be uplifting, an affirmation really, of the good we have seen around the world in the face of evil.
I realize I am going about this backwards, but for those of you not familiar with the plot, it runs as follows. It is sometime in the mid-1960's (a rough guess) and the nuclear balance of terror has broken down. The country is in ruins, the state of the world is unclear, and communities are left to fend for themselves. The readers follows the lives of one small community in Florida for the first year following "The Day" as they struggle to survive and maintain the rule of law. Frank masterfully captures the full scope of the struggle, from almost prophetic descriptions of weapons, tactics and strategy (the novel was published in 1958) to searing characterizations of people in crisis.
"Alas Babylon" operates on so many levels, it has something for everyone. One could easily sit down and read it as an adventure/techno-thriller and come away completely satisfied. It is also a rather scathing critique of war and the bureaucratization of the military. It is not as simple as "war is bad" though, Frank argues through one of characters (a retired admiral) that while war, particularly nuclear war is insane, the price of peace is rational preparedness enacted by professionals, combined with a dialogue that humanizes the enemy. Above all, though, "Alas Babylon" is a testimony to the ingenuity and compassion of man. Yes, we have made mistakes, yes there is evil among us, but the majority of human beings are basically good when given the chance, and that, in these times as much as in the Cold War, is what we must never lose sight of.
Most recent customer reviews
Great book which suffers from a lack of proofreading. Riddled with errors in the last third of the book.Read more