The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The time frame of Alas, Babylon is limited to a single year following a nuclear war. Randy Bragg is a thirty-two-year-old lawyer and former military officer living in Fort Repose, Florida. He and his small community manage to survive the effects of the war and, through their communal efforts, to preserve a modicum of civilization.

Randy receives from his brother Mark, an Air Force colonel and member of Strategic Air Command Intelligence, a telegram that ends with the phrase “Alas, Babylon.” This is their code for disaster, adopted from fiery sermons they heard in childhood. Mark is certain that nuclear attack is imminent, and he entrusts to Randy his wife Helen and his children, Ben Franklin and Peyton.

Mark’s prediction proves true sooner than expected. The next morning, two nearby cities are hit by atomic bombs. Randy is awakened by shaking of the house, a loud rumbling, and an orange light. Peyton’s temporary blindness from looking at the light is only the first of many crises. Randy, on his way to find his friend, Dr. Dan Gunn, passes an overturned car with a dead woman beside it. Stopping automatically, he realizes that all the rules have now changed and that the days of the Good Samaritan are over. All the roads are jammed with refugees, convicts have escaped from prison, and businesses have closed. In short, chaos reigns. In the next few months, charity loses its moral imperative. As electricity, running water,...

(The entire section is 479 words.)