By Sara Constantakis
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Additional info for Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studie Novels, Volume 29
CRITICAL OVERVIEW Frank’s Alas, Babylon is considered by critics and many readers to be a classic atomic holocaust novel. Whenever this genre is mentioned, Frank’s novel is one of about four or five that are named as must-reads. Alas, Babylon is also often considered the author’s best work of fiction. Though Frank’s novel carries this reputation, some critics have found fault with the book. The general sentiment among reviewers is that Alas, Babylon provides a detailed glimpse into what might happen after a nuclear bomb is dropped and how people might survive the aftermath.
Two-Tone sat on the screened porch, rocking languidly and lifting a can of beer to his lips. From the kitchen came a woman’s deep, rich voice, singing a spiritual. That would be Missouri, washing the dishes. Hot, black smoke from burning pine knots issued from both brick chimneys. It seemed a peaceful home, in time of peace. . Randy walked over toward the back door and the Henrys converged on him, their faces apprehensive . . ’’ [Randy asked] ‘‘Just like always’’ [Malachi replied]. As if their ignorance of and indifference to world affairs had miraculously preserved them against even the bomb’s physical effects, the Henrys occupy an extra-temporal pocket-paradise of order and ease yet at the expense of their membership in history—in humanity—at this momentous moment.
Many months into their ordeal, the old social divides— and the city services that supported them—have dissolved. ’’ The meaninglessness of segregated drinking facilities, revealed to the town only in the rocket-red glare of nuclear Armageddon, enables the vision of ‘‘Carleton Hawes . . ’’ In a dramatic later episode, Malachi drives a decoy truck that enables Randy and several other white characters to dispatch a band of deadly highwaymen. Seeing past the glimmer of hope represented by the interracial jug-sharing downtown, Malachi recognizes the persistence of racist sentiments on the highway and takes the wheel so as to function as an irresistible target to those they hope to capture.