What I’m Reading: Alas, Babylon

This was a very simple and amazingly powerful book.

I can’t say how reading this will affect me over time, but this was one of those books that shifts your perspective on the world.  It shifts it just enough to make you feel off kilter for a good long time after the last page is turned.  Am I ready? Could I survive? Would I want to?

Alas, Babylon was published 56 years ago in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.  Yet, despite its age, remains current.  When I say “current” I mean that the places and even some of the long-suffering conflicts between countries have not changed.  Noticing the unchanged status of so many of these prejudices and political hotbeds makes me worry about how humanity is supposed to thrive, and in Pat Frank’s book, survive the next thousand years.

I loved this book for its awareness of political ignorance that has persisted in every government since the beginning of time.  I loved that even the imagined result of a nuclear holocaust was hope and that mankind will in some form continue on and try to survive.  But, I also loved its realistic take that in war there are no winners, ever.

This is a story of survival, but it’s also a stark commentary on what may happen if such things ever occurred. Truly, the setting for the book, Fort Repose, is in a lucky spot.  They’re in Florida, they have natural food sources, an artesian water source, even natural salt. Their neighbors have seed they can plant for food and chickens and pigs for meat and the biggest kicker, people band together to share resources and skills. Seeing as this was written in the 50’s when segregation was still rampant and people were still allowed to keep livestock, I have to wonder how modern suburbia would even live thru a complete reset of civilization?  In that era the mindset was even different.  People had a “make do” attitude and it shows in the book.

I can only imagine the idiocy that would prevail in any urban environment that was thrown into a survival role in this decade. The city restrictions on livestock, the selfishness and even underlying prejudice between white and any one of color.  It’s frightening, it almost makes me want to do a little “doomsday prepping”, but like Randy Bragg, I hope for the best outcome in the worst case scenario.  In any case, there’s no harm in learning how to split wood or how to raise a garden and then preserve it or even knowing where the gas shutoff is in your house.

If anything this book will make you very aware of just how unprepared we all are to face “a thousand year night”.

If you haven’t read this one yet put it on your to-read list.  It’s a classic worth delving into.


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