This lil beauty was a find on Barnes & Noble's "Buy 2, get the 3rd FREE" table. That's a great table. Especially when you can find books that you actually might sorta kinda want to read on that table. Which I did: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.
Apparently this is an old book. The copyright page (which I know how to read because of all those practice sessions in elementary school) tells me that it was first published in 1959. Wikipedia (which I learned how to use once I forgot everything I learned in elementary school) confirms this.
The story takes place in the Nuclear Age town of Fort Repose, Florida. Randy Bragg is just a guy with not a lot of direction in his life...until his Air Force brother Mark lets slip that they've got it on good authority that the Russians are going to be attacking the country. It's going to be bad, and it's going to be soon. So Mark sends his wife and kids to Fort Repose to be with Randy (apparently it was likely to be safe there?) while he hunkers down at a military base type thing in Omaha. Well, the nuclear war happens, and it basically wipes out most of the country, including pretty much the entire state of Florida other than Fort Repose. So, Randy, his new family, his neighbors, his girlfriend, and the rest of the surrounding population have to learn how to survive in this new world in which cash becomes worthless within a few hours, running water and electricity become things of the past, and highway robbers kill for things like honey and whiskey.
It's pretty interesting. It's also pretty terrifying. Especially if you don't have much in the way of food storage...like, oh say, me. Seriously, this book was a kick in the pants, if I've ever had one. I even put "Figure out food storage" on my "Things to do when I'm bored" list. True story.
It took a little long for the book to really get going. It seemed to me like too much happened before the actual bombing occurred - which, of course, is what really sets things in motion. I would have liked to be kind of thrown into the middle of the chaos, rather than placed nicely in the neighbor's yard with fair warning of what was about to happen. But you know, that's just me.
What I really liked about this book was the ending. And I can't quite put my finger on why! I won't tell you what happens...not like it's a big surprise or anything, because not much really does happen. I just thought the last few lines had some nice meaning embedded in them.
So, if you see Alas, Babylon on a "Buy 2, get the 3rd FREE" table, at a secondhand bookstore, at the library, on a street corner, or on my bookshelf if you live close to me, I would say this book is worth reading. It will make you think. And maybe even inspire an interesting nightmare or two...not that that happened to me. Even though it did.