“Some say the world will end in fire”: Reading the Bomb
in Alas, Babylon.
The Bomb changed everything. It brought the specter of the annihilation of humanity to the forefront of everyone’s minds. This was especially true of the authors of the time. The apocalyptic novel became an important component of contemporary literature; in this instance Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the bomb, became disillusioned with his creation almost immediately after he created it. “It is with appreciation and gratefulness that I accept from you this scroll for the Los Alamos Laboratory, and for the men and women whose work and whose hearts have made it. It is our hope that in years to come we may look at the scroll and all that it signifies, with pride. Today that pride must be tempered by a profound concern. If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of the nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of this world must unite or they will perish. This war that has ravaged so much of the Earth, has written these words. The atomic bomb has spelled them out for all men to understand. Other men have spoken them in other times, and of other wars, of other weapons. They have not prevailed. There are some misled by a false sense of human history, who hold that they will not prevail today. It is not for us to believe that. By our minds we are committed, committed to a world united, before the common peril, in law and in humanity.” (Leith, 14). This quote was from his acceptance speech for the Army-Navy “Excellence” award. It was meant to serve as a warning and Pat Frank based this novel on the premise that the powers that be did not heed it.
There is an interesting quote in Pat Frank’s book The Long Way Round, “I could also visualize doctors, chemists, bacteriologists, and physicists ... working...