Friday, December 18, 2009

Alas, Babylon, 1959

Alas, Babylon is a novel by American writer Pat Frank, first published in 1959. It takes place in small community in Florida which is spared the nuclear bomb attacks and subsequent fallout. This novel leaves out a few of the more grueling effects, namely radiation disease and nuclear winter, but what's more important is the depiction of life in the small town after it's separated from the rest of the country, and there the novel really shines. (Jericho and Battlestar Galactica, we caught you copying huge portions of the plot here.) This comes from the same period as A Canticle For Leibowitz and On The Beach, both of which are also excellent.

In Fort Repose, a river town in Central Florida, it was said that sending a message by Western Union was the same as broadcasting it over the combined networks. This was not entirely true. It was true that Florence Wechek, the manager, gossiped. Yet she judiciously classified the personal intelligence that flowed under her plump fingers, and maintained a prudent censorship over her tongue. The scandalous and the embarrassing she excised from her conversation. Sprightly, trivial, and harmless items she passed on to friends, thus enhancing her status and relieving the tedium of spinsterhood. If your sister was in trouble, and wired for money, the secret was safe with Florence Wechek. But if your sister bore a legitimate baby, its sex and weight would soon be known all over town.

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