Book: Alas, Babylon

The classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the world.

The mutual fear and loathing shared by the United States and the Soviet Union during the worst years of the Cold War was invented by governments; but the insanity of nuclear proliferation still had the the power to taint the everyday lives of ordinary people. The hideous prospect of a sudden, irreversible wave of radioactive death was as omnipresent as the sky, and as difficult to face as the sun.

Speculative fiction usually imagines a future progressing forward. But Alas, Babylon deals with a future jerked the other way, where people living in the present are thrown back into primitive times. The novel’s original impetus was a flat homily on the unwinnability of nuclear war, but surprisingly it is the characters of Alas, Babylon that bring the story alive. They create a galvanizing tale of human perseverance and growth far more interesting than the political lesson the story set out to impart.