{Book Review} Alas, Babylon

{Book Review} Alas, Babylon

{Classics} Alas, Babylon

Originally posted on April 28, 2012

There is nothing like the book Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank to evoke the feeling that if any large catastrophe happened, we would all be immensely unprepared.  We all assume that a catastrophe might cause a hiccup for a day or two, or maybe even a week, but we can’t fathom a hiccup for…a year?  two years?  A decade?

In the book, America is attacked by Russia with nuclear and atomic weapons.  A small town in Florida, Fort Repose, is spared while much of Florida is destroyed and contaminated.  Within 24 hours of the attacks, the dollar is worth nothing;  there is no gas left, no groceries, no essentials.  The run on the grocery markets and stations in the first day results in the individual small business rich in paper money, but poor in resources.  There are no shipments in and out.  There are two doctors, and one is killed within months.  Drug addicts steal the drugs in the clinic.  No running water.  No electricity.  Money means nothing, resources and products mean an ability to barter. And no hope for any of this to change any time soon.

  At the close of the book, a year has passed, and the first contact with someone outside of the town occurs.  A year.  And little is resolved or will be changed within the next year.

Just a big book of fear?  Something not possible to happen in our current day of technology and resources?

I spent much of my adult life believing such ideas were of the past.  We are America, with unlimited resources and so evolved that there’s no chance we’d end up back in primitive times.

And yet, this book really opened up the idea to me that though it’s unlikely, it is certainly not impossible.   We are seeing a massive uprising in the middle east that, if we are honest with ourselves, may not be as democratic as we believe.  Those who are not democratic, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Al Qaeda believe they must destroy America to bring on their second coming of their prophet, M0hammd.  We have people in our own country that believe capitalism is dead and the idea of revolution in America is a good one {watch a recent video of Bernadine Dohrn, wife to terrorist Bill Ayers and a part of the terrorist group Weather Underground, here}.  Is it unrealistic to believe we are an island protected by a magic force field and we will never see, in our lifetime, a change in our lifestyle?

If you study cycles of history, we are actually headed for another very big change, something equal to the first and second wars in America.  We believe we have escaped something similar to the Great Depression and World War II in recent years, but I believe we are headed into a Fourth Turning.  It is our own pride and narcissism as a country that leads us to believe things will not change.  And our individual lack of planning can decide whether we make it through adversity, or not.

She had small fear of death, and of man not at all, but the formlessness of what was to come overwhelmed her.  [Alice Cooksey, Alas, Babylon]

This is my favorite quote.   The “formlessness of what was to come” is one of my own biggest fears.  Out of adversity, we find strength and resourcefulness, but without the tools we need, we can easily fail.  Without the skills and education required to take care of not only ourselves, but our neighbors and community, we will fail to thrive. Driving through the mountains a few weeks ago, I saw a rock perched at the top of a cliff above the road, just a small amount of its own body in contact with the rock beneath.  It appeared as though it could tip and drop to the road at any moment, yet it could be there for years before the water and wind finally weather enough of the base to cause the rock to tumble.  As a driver on said road, do you press the pedal down just a little faster to plan for such a tumble, or do you drive the same speed with the assumption that it’s always been and will still be there in our lifetime?

The most intense lesson I learned from this novel was the speed of which our entire lives can change.  When you boil down our existence, subtracting electricity, oil and gas, and running water, what is left?  Basic survival.  Food, shelter, Water, protection, Family, education and for our family, God and Love.  It reinforced that I have to be sure those basic needs are met always.

~Dawn, Home educating mom of 5

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