Monday, February 7, 2011

What I'm Reading...

I'm well into an older novel by Pat Frank, called Alas, Babylon.  It has been fascinating, first because the reader is Will Patton, who's voice just has that rich, southern slowness to it that helps shape the story.  But the tale itself could be relevent today as well as when it was written, in the 1950s.

The story takes place in a small southern Florida town, just far enough away from a military base to make it safe from the nuclear blasts, but not big enough or aware enough to keep it from missing all of the hundreds of things that we've become accustomed to having and can be wiped out over-night. 

As I listen, I'm wondering if much has changed in the 60 or so years since this story was dreamed up.  Is the US prepared for an atomic blast in many of their large cities?  Are citizens self-reliant enough to bear up to being without computers, television, radio, electricity and even water?  Have we taught our children the basics of living a life without these luxuries?  Can you start a fire?  Can you rough it in a home without electricity or heat - for an extended time?  Where will you get your water if the well doesn't pump?  Would paper money have any worth?  What if the bank closed down.

It is a bit of a study in times-gone-by, though.  The language is rough (remember, this is the deep south in the 50s, so skin-color was a big thing) and the reliance on a "tele-type" for communication, and "Western Union offices" for telegrams was amusing.  Things have certainly changed.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.  I'll let you know how it goes!
(Honestly, why hasn't this been made into a movie?  These characters are so vivid, I can't believe they didn't do that. I wonder if it was because the Russians are the bad guys in this novel, and maybe we were trying to make "nice" with them.  Who knows...) 

From the book publisher:

This true modern masterpiece is built around the two fateful words that make up the title and herald the end - “Alas, Babylon.” When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly.
But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness. Will Patton's narration paints this classic tale as an ominous picture of the terrible possibilites of the nuclear age.

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