Every city in the United States, every city in Russia, and possibly the capitals of Europe destroyed in nuclear war. Written in 1959, this book was speculative science fiction: forty years later, it reads as chill alternative
history featuring a Jim Crow – men are strong and silent – women are kind and kind of kooky – “We won the nuclear war!” setting.
I would also like to issue a formal apology to John Christopher’s No Blade of Grass, which like this story,
shows the quick disintegration of society when infrastructure is removed. The destruction of Hurricane Katrina has done the same thing as these two stories, and what was mentioned in these two stories has come true, and just as quickly. If not worse. The most chilling? In the book and this hurricane both: drug addicts break into a rehabilitation center for morphine, destroying everything, and chasing off the staff.
In Katrina? The same thing, plus the remaining building is flooding. What happens to the remaining patients?
Some are euthanized before the staff flees. Last person, please turn out the lights.
Like No Blade of Grass, this story Alas, Babylon was a page-burner, despite characters with emotionally
bereft inner dialogues, and an insane optimism which just didn’t ring true to me. To its credit, it sometimes
hit a Steven Kingsian vibe with the small and telling details. I wish certain politicians would read this book...
Lessons for writers. Small moments can be big writing. Characters need to be complex and to have flaws.