This book is excellent. One has only to think of Yugoslavia or the worst-case-scenarios of the Y2K problem to see how timely this book really is. It is a study of survival What makes it unique amongst such stories is that the focus is on the survival of the community as a whole, not just an individual. Most stories of the collapse of civilization are about its effect on one individual. The collapse of civilization becomes nothing more than a backdrop for exciting and heroic personal adventures. This novel was first published during the Cold War (in 1960) nearly 40 years ago. Since the Cold War is over, isn't it hopelessly out of date? Sadly, it is not. One has only to watch the evening news to see how grimly relevant it is.
Pat Frank states in the Foreword that his purpose was to show realistically how terrible a nuclear war would be. His theme is stated and restated, that there will be no winners, no victors in such a war. All will be destroyed. Ironically, this is the one area where the book is out-of-date. It was written before we knew about nuclear winter. Also, too many atomic bombs fall. The radiation level would be much higher than he portrays. Realistically, there would be no survivors.
This flaw is what makes the book relevant and valuable. Forget a nuclear war between two superpowers. The true subject of the book is to look at what happens to a small town that is suddenly and totally isolated. What happens to the ordinary citizen? What happens to Randy, his family and his friends?
Alas, Babylon is utterly realistic. The town has to learn to defend itself -- so that it can then cope with the truly serious problems of survival. I'm not going to say what solutions are found.
I am going to recommend reading this book.
One only has to watch the news to realise how real this story is. It could happen anytime, you only have to look at the Middle East and Yugoslavia to see how real this book is.