Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Summary

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Alas, Babylon Summary

Randy Bragg is the most eligible bachelor in Fort Repose, Florida. Sorta. Sure, he's a hunk, but he's also a failed politician who takes a shot of whiskey with his morning cereal. Not a good look.

Out of the blue, Randy receives a telegram from his brother Mark, who's an officer in the Strategic Air Command, or SAC, the military department largely responsible for managing the country's nuclear arsenal. Marky Mark has bad news: the Soviet Union is about to nuke the snot out of the United States. Sorry about that.

Because Mark will have to work with the SAC during the conflict, he sends his family down to Florida to lay low with Randy. That's his wife, Helen, and two kids, Peyton and Ben Franklin. That's a lot of responsibility for a hard-drinking playboy. Slightly panicked, Randy hustles to prepare his house and gather supplies ahead of their arrival.

They're only there for a few hours when the nukes start falling. Nearby Miami and Tampa are taken out first, while Jacksonville and Orlando are destroyed later in the day. Though Fort Repose is spared from both the nuclear explosions and resulting clouds of radiation, it still has to deal with a complete lack of electricity and shortage of supplies.

To survive, Randy forms a small community with his neighbors. This includes the McGoverns, a family of rich Yankees whose daughter, Lib, Randy used to date, and the Henrys, a poor, black family who sometimes works for Randy. He also enlists the help of his best bro Dan Gunn, who happens to be the town's only doctor. Dan is busy making house calls all day, every day.

Although things go decently for few months, the community is threatened when bands of thieving highwaymen appear and start assaulting travelers. This comes to a head when they attack Dan Gunn on his way home after a house call. Not only do they badly beat him, but they also steal his car and medical equipment. This could devastate the whole town.

Furious, Randy leads a team of armed men to ambush the highwaymen. He also marries Lib that same day, but that's a far less exciting plot point. Although Malachai Henry is tragically killed in the battle, Randy & Co. quickly dispatch their highwaymen foe, thereby marking Fort Repose as off-limits to any criminals seeking to exploit it.

Then, roughly a year after The Day—the day the nukes fell—the military arrives. A group of soldiers land their helicopter on Randy's property and explain that they're performing recon on the areas affected by the nukes. They're actually shocked by the state of Fort Repose: it's in better condition than many towns in the safe zone. Good work, team.

The soldiers offer to evacuate the family, but everyone refuses. They've spent too long building this community to leave it behind now. D'aww.

Before the soldiers leave, Randy has one question to ask: who won the war? The United States did, they explain, though you wouldn't know it by looking around the country.

So, there you go, Shmoopers. In nuclear war, there are no winners.

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