Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One Second After

Probably because I was a child during those dark days during which teachers still had students climb under their desks as practice for what they should do when the Russians nuked our little town of 12,000 people, I have been a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction for as long as I can remember.  As it turns out, there is still plenty of it out there, and it does not always involve nuclear bombs falling from the sky.  This time around it takes only a split second for every electrical device in what appears to be (at least) most of the United States to be fried into permanent uselessness.

The premise of William Forstchen’s One Second After is that a hostile government or well-funded terrorist organization manages to explode a nuclear device over the United States at precisely the correct altitude needed to unleash an enormous electromagnetic pulse that will do just that trick.  All anyone in John Matherson’s little North Carolina town knows is that they are instantly off the grid: no radio, no television, no telephones, no anything electrical - including all of their computer-chip-controlled cars and trucks.  It takes a while to hit them, but when people finally realize that no one is coming to help them, society begins to break down.

After the initial panic and scramble for available groceries, medicines, cigarettes, booze, and anything else still on store shelves, someone has to bring order to the chaos if any of the townspeople are to survive for more than a few months.  John Matherson, a local college professor with years of military training, calling upon the help of dozens of his former students, is the town’s best chance.

William R. Forstchen
The threat of electromagnetic pulse warfare does not exist just in books; it is a very real possibility in the real world, one that Forstchen does not believe authorities in this country takes seriously enough.  One Second After (which includes a forward by New Gingrich) is the author’s attempt to place the topic into mainstream awareness and conversation.  One can only hope that this 2009 novel caught the attention of a few people in the right places.

Bottom Line:  Readers will be fascinated by the ingenuity of the novel’s characters as they attempt to reconstruct the things they were taking for granted only a few days earlier.  At the same time, they will be appalled by how quickly the elderly and those with certain chronic illnesses begin to die off when life-sustaining drugs are no longer to be found.  But most disturbing of all is the realization that there are people out there who desperately want to turn One Second After into reality.  This one will scare you.

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