If I learned one thing through reading Alas, Babylon it is this: never doubt your best friend and her taste in books. When your best friend tells you to read a book, read the book. You won't be sorry. But the truth is, I learned many things from reading Alas, Babylon.
Alas Babylon is set in 1959 in a small, rural community in Florida. In the days leading up to the Day, the day of great nuclear disaster where most major cities and all military bases were attacked, only a few people know the end is coming. One of them is Randy Bragg. Warned by his brother, Mark, who is in the military that danger is very near and extremely life-threatening, he begins to prepare for the worst and to welcome his brother's family into his own home. He may have known, but he couldn't have prepared. Not enough. How do you prepare for a disaster of such catastrophic proportions? All surrounding areas in Florida--most of Florida in fact--has been bombed. It no longer exists....not in any meaningul life-sustaining way at least. The whole state has been zoned contaminated. But this one town survived the initial attacks. But it will take teamwork and organization to survive the effects of that awful Day. With no new deliveries of food and supplies, how long can this one town survive?
You might think that reading this book would be depressing, but surprisingly enough it isn't. It is just as much about the resilience and strength of the human race as it is about the destruction of civilization as we know it. It is only in times of great struggles that human character is shaped and defined. This Day defines and redefines the community as each one person learns what they're truly made of.
My favorite parts of the book:
I liked how the Day redefined the librarian and the library. Before the Day, she felt discouraged and alone. No one in town was interested in books. Interested in reading. Of particular note, she points out that no one liked going to the library because the library didn't have enough money for air conditioning. But now, after the Day, the library is one of the central places in town to not only survive but to thrive. It is now the "best place" in town to be. People not only use it to learn, but reading is one of the few pastimes still possible. No cars (extremely limited fuel supply). No tvs. No radios. Limited supply of alcohol and tobacco. The librarian also becomes the record-keeper for the community.
I also enjoyed the several brief mentions of armadillos. For example, it mentions that since people have stopped driving, the armadillos main threat to survival has ceased...and the population is growing at unbelievable numbers. But soon these little ugly guys have a new worry: the people discover they are a tasty treat.