Many stories have been written about Nuclear War, but what sets Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon apart, was it was published in 1959, at the height of the Cold War. This book is very scary and I can imagine even more so for people who read it when it was initially published.
A modern companion book would be Cormac McCarthy's The Road, as it had many similarities in theme and tone. Although, the characters in Frank's novel are stuck in a contamination zone and their range of space is stiffling, adding to the tension in the story.
The book is a horror story. Many of the characters turn into animals and the actual animals turn into beasts. Our core group of characters, a motley bunch of friends, neighbors and relatives are forced to scrape by and use both brains and brute force to resolve problems. I loved how the town library, on the verge of extinction prior to the attack, becomes an indispensable resource and the librarian a town hero. Frank really seems to know his stuff going into writing this novel, because he lists problems that would arise in such an event that never even crossed my mind. Scary, scary stuff.
I rated this four out of five stars, only because I found it difficult to get into. I read this book over the course of several months and only after getting sick and making good progress, was I able to find it gripping. After a hundred pages in, I was totally captivated and I finished it up in less than a day.
This book will leave you with jangled nerves.