New York Times best-selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real ... a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages ... A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.
Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read, a book already being discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe, and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future ... and our end.
William R. Forstchen (born 1950) is an American author who began publishing in 1983 with the novel Ice Prophet. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War and the History of Technology.
Forstchen is the author of more than forty books, including the award winning We Look Like Men of War, a young adult novel about an African-American regiment that fought at the Battle of the Crater, which is based upon his doctoral dissertation, The 28th USCTs: Indiana’s African-Americans go to War, 1863-1865 and the "Lost Regiment" series which has been optioned by both Tom Cruise and M. Night Shyamalan.
Forstchen’s writing efforts have, in recent years, shifted towards historical fiction and non fiction. In 2002 he started the “Gettysburg” trilogy with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; the trilogy consists of Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, Grant Comes East, and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant - The Final Victory. More recently, they have have published two works on the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and immediately after that attack Pearl Harbor, and Days of Infamy.
In March 2009, Forstchen’s latest work, One Second After, (Forge/St. Martin’s books) was released. Based upon several years of intensive research and interviews, it examines what might happen in a “typical” American town in the wake of an attack on the United States with “electro-magnetic pulse” (EMP) weapons. Similar in plotting to books such as On the Beach and Alas Babylon, One Second After, is set in a small college town in western North Carolina and is a cautionary tale of the collapse of social order in the wake of an EMP strike. The book has been optioned by Warner Bros. and currently is in development as a feature film. The book was cited on the floor of Congress and before the House Armed Services Committee by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R.-MD), chair of the House Committee tasked to evaluate EMP weapons, as a realistical portrayal of the potential damage rendered by an EMP attack on the continental United States.
Forstchen resides near Asheville, North Carolina with his daughter Meghan. His other interests include archaeology, and he has participated in several expeditions to Mongolia and Russia. He is a pilot and co owns an original 1943 Aeronca L-3B recon plane used in World War II.
1. Every important adult male character is either military or ex-military. Seriously. As a bonus, several minor characters that are merely alluded to are also ex-military. (For example, at one point we learn that a pharmacist's husband is an ex-ranger and insists that she keep a gun at the pharmacy. Good times.)
2. As others have pointed out, the author doesn't know the difference between of and have.
3. Much, perhaps most, of the action happens "off screen," including the deaths of all but one of the major characters. Rather than active scenes, much plot advancement takes place via expository dialogue, which leads to:
4. Most of the scenes are meetings or speeches, usually with the main character dominating the discussion with his references to military history. Rather than showing us the hoards of refugees storming the city gates or the plague wiping hundreds out within a month, it's discussed in the past tense at a meeting of city leaders amid lengthy asides about the main character either thinking about smoking or lighting one up. Most of the important events are handled this way.
5. Almost every chapter has a character mention "this is still America" or "we're still Americans." Pretty annoying, but also an excellent illustration of how every character has essentially the same voice and world view.
I had read that the author did years of research about EMPs, but even the technical side of the book seemed sloppy and careless - basically a few pages with a handful of EMP talking points repeated over and over.
All together it was a frustrating read. The depth of the grimness is the only reason it doesn't get one star, but I could change my mind and lower it.
It's too bad this book is so poorly written, because the premise is pretty cool. The slipshod editing - you may think you're saying "must of" because that's what it sometimes sounds like, but you're actually saying "must've" and any editor with an actual job should know this. The ridiculous characters - most of all, John, the hero who has it all. He's a professor, a doctor, a colonel, owns one of the only running cars left in America that the mayor apologises for asking to borrow, has a little bit o' hippie in him, and is the only person who gets to talk for more than a sentence at a time. The preposterous outcomes - say what you like about lazy, dependent Americans, but I refuse to believe that a power outage, even on a national scale, would cause this kind of devastation in such a short amount of time. Fifteen thousand people in one town really would starve to death in less than two months? I'm sure there are people in the world who would love to get 1200 calories a day.
At some point, the lady character who's there to be a sexual foil for our boy John tells him, "I feel like I'm in some bad novel." In my library copy someone wrote an asterisk next to this & at the bottom of the page wrote "You are."
I understand the well-done and well-meaning low reviews my fellow bookworms gave this novel. Many points I agree with. To be honest, I almost clicked three stars myself. However, reading "One Second After" was not about entertainment for me. I wanted to learn.
Oddly, the premise of this book - an EMP (electro magnetic pulse) shutting down the world's grid - came to my reality when all the high power solar flares were coming towards earth in early March 2012. Solar flares can cause the same reaction as EMPs, crazy how that works. The book then goes on to describe life after society falls apart.
Coming off a 20+ year stint as a far left liberal with a narrow tolerance for the right, I really appreciated an inside look. William Forstchen is an authentic and thoughtful conservative presenting the reader with a realistic view of this mindset. As I find myself looking for a more balanced approach to politics, economics, and larger understandings, it's clear to me the left side including my former self, are as narrow as we believe the right to be. This book opened my eyes and presented me with an inside look at the conservative camp. It's not so bad. Mr. Forstchen even addresses the far right Christian sticklers in a not-so-good light. This personal look into conservative lives is a nice byproduct of why I picked up "One Second After," but not the main reason. Mainly, I wanted to see a vision of collapse. All empires come to an end and America is doing its level best to be next.
I purposely read this book to learn how life without a centralized structure may look. Max Kaiser, Jim Rogers, and "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" author, Robert Kiyosaki amongst other economists, are all coming out and warning us that economic collapse is imminent. The dollar will lose its clout and hyperinflation and/or depression will set in. I felt "One Second After" may offer a glimpse of what this could look like and what to expect. After researching the history of other countries who faced collapse like Argentina, Zimbabwe, Soviet Union, and even as far back as Germany, it's clear America is on the same track. So, what now?
With the popularity of National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" it appears more and more people are becoming aware of how wrapped up and entwined their dependent lives are on others. How much can we really do for ourselves? Our food, electricity, transportation, and health are very much dependent upon resources outside our immediate ability. What if those shut off? This book presents an idea of how that may play out.
Ultimately, a sound belief in abundance and the ability to create my reality from choice & awareness trumps all fear. I am so very thankful for William R. Forstchen and all authors who write down their point-of-view in novels, so I may take out and use what works for me. I am thankful that I have the capacity to observe, ponder, and stay curious rather than rush to judgment. And what if that's all we are required to do? Trust our own knowing and extrapolate the parts that fit us.
I'm going back to my happy place now knowing that collective belief, prayer, and/or meditation (whatever your belief system allows for) is what works best for my reality. I am aware of all evil lurking out there and I'm not scared. Not one lick. I am aware and I am grinning.
This book was possibly the worst book I have ever read and my objections go far beyond the story line. The writing style is tedious and lazy -- how many times were the character's responses to a conversation "what?" or "damn?" But what I find most disturbing are (1) the delusions of grandeur evident in the introduction and postscript, (2) the obvious parallels between the author's real-life ego and the book's protagonist, and (3) the complete lack of introspection the characters have about their actions.
How many days into the blackout did the town folk suggest that they should perform a summary execution for looting? Two? Seven? Whatever it was, the protagonist just jumped right into the role of town executioner without the requisite inner monologue questioning the morality of the action. What would have made the story interesting is a parallel track showing how the actions of one clan affected another or how two different clans had a different approach to solving problems. I for one would be interested to see the truth - that the kind of "me against them" thinking proselytized in the book affects moral judgment negatively and has far reaching implications beyond the clan. But the book is completely devoid of character development and you will not identify with any of them.
As for the author's ego I would like to point out several things. First, it is obvious that the author modeled the protagonist after himself. That in itself seems to be in bad taste. I'd also like to point out that the protagonist spent zero effort in the first half of the book comforting his young diabetic child which seems to be a curious omission (given that the author dedicated the book to his daughter). Finally I'd like to point out that the author spent a fair amount of time discussing the importance of rationing yet when the protagonist's finger cut developed a staph infection, the author decided that it would be best if the town doctor used a rare antibiotic to fight the staph rather than amputating the finger. The implication I hope is obvious: that the author is so busy setting the "me against them" scene that he predictably forgets that it would have been better to amputate the finger so that someone's life (rather than a finger) could have been saved instead.
If you are fond of saying "but we're Americans" or, shooting first and asking questions later, or believe that everyone in the world is out to get you, then this is the book for you. If you are a conservative, you will love this book because it will feed you. Don't worry - there isn't one situation in the book that will require your introspection or make you question your beliefs.
To show you how bad this book is, I will write my review in the style of the author.
Reading, going through pages and pages, could of been at the beach, should of saved my money, but then again, like back in 1988, when I read The Stand, I thought I might enjoy this book. Characters talking, no object, subject or verb, no action either damn it. Just prepositional phrases and run-on sentences in abundance, not an editor in the damn place, needed a cigarette to get through the pain, eleven left. So much talk about cigarettes, maybe underwritten by Phillip Morris. Wish I could find a damn complete sentence without thinking back to other books, other times, but now gone.
"Darn it!" I said sharply as I realized I'd spent $17.00 on this book. "Honey, it will OK, we are still Americans, aren't we?" my husband said softly. "We better damn well hope so. They should of had an english teacher in the cast." I whispered.
I shuddered with rage. How could this have happened in America?
***brief pause while an irrelevant character breaks into the National Anthem while the rest of us try to unsuccessfully hide our tears******
OK, end of satire. Let's just say the best written part of this book was the Intro by Newt Gingrich. And thats scarier than an EMP.
Preachy and abrasive, I imagine this book would only appeal to hard core fans of the End of the World novel. If the following bit of dialogue turns you off, please don't attempt to read this book:
"Charlie, Americans were so damn unprepared...we spent a helluva lot of time wringing out hands about global warming and that wasn't even true. Just last week we were worried about basketball playoffs, now men are taking arms over a slice of bread. It reminds me of the Civil War. Also that movie, Independence Day," John interjected coldly.
Okay, no one says that, exactly. But the characters are constantly saying DAMN and HELLUVA, which gets grating, and everyone starts every sentence with the first name of the person their addressing. And they can't say anything without the help of an adverb. Coldly, softly, angrily, tearfully, rashly...pick your favorite.
Worse, everyone's referencing movies, books, and historical tragedies, but with no subtlety or attempt to weave the reference into the story. It's more like HEY THIS IS LIKE THAT TIME IN RUSSIA WHERE PEOPLE WERE STARVING AND FOOD WAS RATIONED BECAUSE NOW PEOPLE ARE STARVING AND FOOD IS RATIONED.
I also got tired of everyone commenting on how much life has changed. JUST LAST MONTH THESE KIDS WERE STUDENTS AND NOW THEY'RE AN ARMY. Fair enough, if it were the only such observation. EXACTLY 42 DAYS AGO THESE PEOPLE WERE EATING BURGERS AND PIZZA AND NOW THEY'RE EATING PANCAKES MADE OUT OF SAWDUST. Uh, okay. Maybe a little more about the sawdust pancakes, and what's happening to the people eating them? No, more melodramatic observations instead? OUR BIGGEST WORRY USED TO BE THAT THE INTERNET WAS SLOW BUT NOW THERE ARE ROVING GANGS OF CANNIBALS. ALSO ALL THE COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS ARE PROBABLY DEAD BECAUSE THEY NEVER PARTICIPATED IN CIVIL WAR REENACTMENTS.
But, as you'll note, I gave this two stars instead of knocking all the way down to one, which I should probably address. There are parts of the book I enjoyed, such as the conference scenes, where the town leaders take turns laying out problems and discussing possible solutions. With disease, shortages, unrest, and a growing influx of refugees, even the smallest, friendliest of towns has plenty to worry about. And the council comes up with decent solutions from limited options - how to deal with food hoarders, for example (no one gets rations cards until their home has been searched for hidden food). Forstchen also provides a neat little demonstration of how seemingly minor injuries, like cuts and scrapes, could become deadly in the new post-medicine world.
Unfortunately, though, there’s much more telling than showing throughout the book. We’re told over and over again how ill-prepared the United States was for the attack, how whiny and pampered all us citizens are, and how all the hippies, peaceniks, and white collar professionals are useless and sure to die soon. It gets tiring.
I guess that puts this book squarely in the “not recommended” category, unless you still have a substantial Y2K stash that you’d like to justify to yourself.
Do you rate a book only on the quality of the writing or on how it makes you think after you finish? This gets 5+ stars for provoking serious thought while the writing itself was just okay. Short recap: one spring day, 3 nuclear weapons are exploded over the US, generating an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP), frying everything digital. One second everyone is living in the digital wonderland of today and the next they are back in The Middle Ages, although that will take some time to become clear to everyone. There is no warning, no preparation for the attack, in the blink of an eye all things digital go out of existence. Do not read this book if you are seeking a pleasant read to pass the time. It is truly frightening to contemplate how life would change should this occur. And it is completely feasible for an attack like this to happen with absolutely no warning. We are so dependent now on computers and digital machines, we simply have no conception of life without. There were holes and gaps in the story, and I really wanted a better battle scene when the Posse appears. I also wanted better feel for the community and the people. He sketches very broadly. This is a book that will make you wonder how you would handle things if it happens. I just know I am not going to sell my 1964 Chevrolet C-10 pickup, not after reading this book.
Forstchen started with a fantastic premise, but unfortunately the book failed to live up to the idea. The author apparently did not learn the lesson of Writing 101 that you need to show, not tell. Perhaps it was the historian coming out, but Forstchen took amazing events - battles, plagues, life and death - and rather dryly recounted them. He missed out on so many opportunities to really wow the audience with action and suspense. Also, the characters were almost insufferable. The good were too good and the bad were too bad. John was described as an average Joe, but he came across more like a character out of a Die Hard movie. The man must be superhuman to have survived all he did relatively unscathed. And his constant rhapsodizing about America and patriotism was excessive, especially since his America seemed to only refer to those who were military/ex-military, Republican, and men. The feminist in me was livid - women in the book were either 1) damsels in distress; 2) nurturers and caregivers; or 3) incompetent, crying weaklings. (And about ninety percent of them were wearing tight-fitting, sweat-drenched blouses.) What could have been a great cautionary tale turned into a reactionary one, in which Forstchen waxed nostalgic for the America of the pre-Civil War South where men were men, war was the height of masculinity, and racism, xenophobia and sexism were de rigueur. I'm glad I now know a little about EMPs, but otherwise, this book was a loss. Other post-apocalyptic books do a far better job of imagining a future reality and tapping into the humanity or lack thereof in an annihilated society (seeThe Road).
A movie based upon the novel One Second After by William Forstchen would look a lot like Red Dawn, or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Mel Gibson’s Road Warrior.
An Electromagnetic Pulse is set off over the United States and all electronic chips of any and every kind are rendered inoperative. The author then demonstrates in blunt and terrible fashion what this means: within a few days people are starving, the seriously ill are dying and law and order has collapsed, and it just gets worse from there.
A quote from the end of the book sums it up, “ … turn off the lights, stop the toilets from getting water to flush, empty the pharmacies, turn off the television and we don’t know what to do.” Forstchen examines how reliant we all are on our infrastructure and how quickly we degenerate once that network is broken.
The book is likable and enjoyable but not as literature. It is written simply, with one-dimensional characterization and flat dialogue. It has the tone and pace of the Left Behind series. The author is conservative and pro-military, so much so that theme gets tedious. I’m a veteran and I got tired of it.
What was intriguing was the ideas it presented and its harsh, realistic vision of how fragile our society may be. A re-occurring theme is the statement, “We are still Americans” and what this means when people are starving and martial law is enacted and bands of blood thirsty gangs are roaming the streets – only a few weeks into the catastrophe.
Forstchen asks some difficult questions and requires the reader to take a serious look at who we are.
This book is intense, heart-wrenching, and not for the easy-queasy!
It is basically two books:
1. An essay on everything our society would deal with in a post-apocalyptic scenario 2. How a small community in North Carolina deals with that post-apocalyptic scenario.
The detail from the "essay" is well researched and thoroughly broken down into a plethora of possibilities. Every element is terrifying and it is amazing how we are only the loss of a few resources we count on every day before we could be back in the dark ages - it is quite scary!
The stories surrounding the community are quite sad, often inspiring, and sometimes terrifying. Normal people asked to step up and go above and beyond. The sick and the elderly dead before their time because of the loss of food, medicine, and care staff. Desperate people giving into criminal tendencies and maniacs setting up Mad Max-esque posses to destroy everything in their path. Lots of difficult scenarios that led to a fair share of shocking moments.
A very interesting book, but read with caution as the horror is way too possible.
I really enjoyed this! The premise seems so plausible and that was what made this so scary. My poor heartstrings too, I felt so strongly for the characters!
I did feel a little disappointed when some of the action was skipped over and happened behind the scenes. Felt a little cheated a couple of times when this happened, but overall I was really captivated.
I think that with listening to the audiobook I didn't pick up on as many grammatical errors than others did when reading the physical book. Obviously with listening I'm more likely to zone out a tiny bit or half-listen. Perhaps I also didn't pick up on it because the errors often sounded like it was part of the way people sometimes speak, so it didn't sound wrong when actually spoken aloud (like 'could of' sounding similar to 'could've'). The errors would make more sense if the book was in first-person, but this was written in third-person.
As much as I like post-apocalyptic novels, zombies, aliens, and supernatural horrors are entertaining but not scary, because we know those types of end-of-the-world scenarios are not going to happen.
One Second After manages to be scary because it sounds very plausible. In fact, William Fortschen supposedly wrote this book in part to warn Americans about a threat he believes has been overlooked and ignored — hence the foreword by Newt Gingrich and the afterword by a military officer, both warning that "HEY, THIS SHIT IS REAL, YO!"
The apocalyptic scenario is an Electromagnetic Pulse. In this book, there are actually three EMP weapons detonated — one takes out the U.S. and Canada, another takes out Japan and South Korea, and a third takes out Russia. They never do find out for sure who launched them, though the obvious suspects — China, North Korea, a jihadi network — are all suggested.
EMPs of course are well-known side effects of atomic bombs. Is it possible that one well-placed missile, launched from a container ship in the Atlantic to detonate high in the atmosphere over North America, could fry most electronics in the U.S. and thus cause a breakdown in civilization in a matter of weeks? I am not quite convinced on that score, but it's one of the TEOTWAWKI scenarios that keeps certain breeds of survivalists and politicians awake at night. Fortschen's concern is that the U.S. government has taken virtually no steps to harden critical electrical and electronic infrastructure. The reason is that like so many preventative measures, it would cost a lot of money to protect against what most see as a remote, hypothetical threat.
Well, everyone has their hobby horse. But ignore the EMP as the delivery mechanism. There are other scenarios that might cause a SHTF event. And if something happens to disrupt electricity, food, and water, for days, weeks, or months, it will get very, very ugly, and that's the more convincing message this book gets across.
The main character, John Matherson, is a history professor and former Army officer. Despite having almost been promoted to general, his military career was largely that of a desk jockey. He is a widower living in a small town in North Carolina with two daughters and two dogs.
Then the EMP goes off. Instantly, virtually every vehicle, generator, and electronic device is dead. It takes them a few hours to realize it's not just a power failure (despite the puzzling fact that cars stalled on the highway), a day to realize it's serious, and a few more days to realize that the S has indeed HTF.
The rest of the book is a survival story. Matherson becomes a leader in their small town. First they have to deal with routine problems, very inconvenient and occasionally life-threatening (such as the fact that his daughter is a Type 1 diabetic who's going to die when the insulin runs out). As the refugees start pouring in, and it becomes evident how very unprepared they are, things get progressively worse, and worse, and worse.
By the climax, in which Matherson has trained a bunch of high school and college kids into a militia which is the only thing standing against a barbarian horde known as "the Posse," they've already lost most of their population to starvation and disease. They've had to implement rationing, shoot looters and hoarders, eat their pets, perform surgery without anesthetics or antibiotics, and make hard decisions about who they're going to let starve to death.
I found this to be a compelling read because the author didn't take any dramatic artistic licenses. I don't think everything would play out exactly as described in this novel — it might be worse, it might be not quite as bad (I do think the U.S. population being reduced to 30 million in one year is unlikely) — but other than the EMP scenario described as the precipitating event, nothing that followed seemed implausible.
And damn if a few of the deaths weren't tear-jerkers.
One Second After is a book to get you thinking. There are a lot of things that can disrupt modern civilization for varying lengths of time. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showed just how bad things can get for people who are unprepared, and that was localized and everyone knew order and services would be restored eventually. What would you do if the power shut off right now and the trucks bringing food to the grocery store stopped running, and never resumed? If you are like most people, you'd be screwed in short order.
While not a "prepper" in any serious way, I have actually started taking this shit a little more seriously lately. You know, just in case. There are different levels of events you can prepare yourself for. Three days without power. A week without being able to leave your house. A month without electricity, running water, or food. The complete collapse of civilization. Most people cannot do much to prepare for the latter, and I live too close to what would be ground zero of any TEOTWAWKI scenario to think I'd have a chance of escaping to some rural redoubt. However, I do have enough food, water, and emergency supplies to "shelter in place" for a while. And I'm an NRA member. You know... in case of zombies.
Even if you are not seized with an impulse to go out and buy guns and 10# cans of beans, though, One Second After is a realistic novel that might inspire you to start thinking realistically. Just in case.
I'll start by saying I don't think I am the target audience for this. The target audience are military, patriots, members of the gov't, and WASP males. This is a piece of propoganda aimed at lobbying people to take precautions against an EMP attack.
This is the story of a man living in a small town in NC with his family when an electromagnetic pulse attack transforms the USA into a postapocalyptic country.
That said, here are my issues with the book:
-While there are plenty of female characters, we never see male characters suffering. One female tells the main character that she was raped, and begs to sleep with him in exchange for some food. When he refuses, the character becomes dejected and a good deal of time is spent saying that she can't handle the world anymore and suicide/killing her would be a mercy, mostly as a result of her desperation after being raped.
-There is no indignity suffered by male characters. Their biggest problem is not being able to provide for loved ones, which they generally quietly go along with. Any kind of male suffering is not developed until the very last section of the book, saved for the main character.
-This part I didn't mind so much but it can sometimes be offputting: all the action is narrated/summed up as if it happened hours or days ago, much of the fighting and characters getting sick is skipped over and summarized later. A major case of too much telling, not enough showing. It takes something away from characterization and storytelling that we don't get to see our characters during life-changing events.
-My biggest problem with this book is that, while it analyzed infrastructure breakdown well, the reactions of people were unrealistic. Martial law is declared and the leaders maintain order, triaging off a good deal of citizens, secretly giving them less rations, while giving soldiers and hard laborers extra rations. Half the town dies of starvation, but there is never any consideration of cannibalizing the dead. Cannibalism is a fate worse than death, apparently. Instead, the dead are burried (I assume because it's a very Christian town?), when burning them would be much less labor-intensive.
-Additionally, the author somehow takes the Donner party and the Uruguayan rugby team's Andes plane crash incident (both of which were cases of the living cannibalising the already-dead as a way to survive) and links them to Jeffrey Dahmer (who killed people and then ate them for pleasure). These two don't strike me as the same thing at all. He even goes so far as to taking something the Andean plane crash survivors used to comfort themselves -- likening their dead colleagues' flesh to that of Jesus, giving them a sacramental new life -- and using those words to fault killer-cult leaders, who in the book use religion to mislead people into killing and eating others. That just seems terribly disrespectful to those survivors who suffered through real famine and had to do something horrific to survive.
-The book was often confusing because within the main character's family, one character was named Jen and another Jennifer, along with an Elizabeth who was sometimes known as Liz. This made it hard to tell if the mention of "Jen" was actually the character Jen or was a shortening of Jennifer. This should have been easy to avoid. Why didn't the author think about this?
In general, the book had some useful thoughts on the breakdown of infrastructure during an emergency, and the resulting patterns of death (disease, starvation, etc), but was otherwise annoyingly bigoted in favor of the Old Boys' Club crowd.
The premise of the story is that an EMP (electronmagnetic pulse) is created by the detonation of 3 nuclear bombs above the earth's atmosphere, which renders all electronic, digital, computerized elements in the infrastructure of the U.S. inoperable, which leads to a complete and total breakdown of life as we know it. OK. Now we know. Author's mission accomplished.
From a literary point of view, this scenario could have been rendered as a gripping human interest story in microcosm, but instead the author dissipates the force of the story with (as Publisher's Weekly pointed out in its review) an increasing foray into jingoism, particularly near the end of the novel, and a reliance on pointing out repeatedly which feature films present the suggested ambience for given passages. (And here I was thinking it was the author's job to create the ambience in his own writing.) There were also too many comparisons, again during the latter part of the story, to similaries that happened during the Civil War.
My deepest grievance, however, is that the author seems not to know the difference between using "of" and "have", as in passages such as "It must of cost a fortune", "An accident must of shut it down", "You might not of seen it", "You think they'd of seen this coming", "I'd of used it if you hadn't showed up", etc., etc., etc. I nearly stopped reading because of this grammatical embarrassment which occurred over and over and over again. This author has apparently written more than 40 books and won an award for a young adult novel titled We Look Like Men of War. Hard to believe, given the lack of grammatical control found in the pages of One Second After.
I would like to say this book measures up to classic post-apocalypse novels like Nevile Shute's On the Beach, and Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, among others. But it doesn't.
I read it in large part because I live near the actual scene of the story, which possibly made it even more disappointing. I love a good story of apocalypse, but this isn't one.
This ain't my first time at the apocalypse rodeo. It's not even my first EMP-apocalypse book, so all of this "OMG! No electronics!" is somewhat old hat, which means that this book has to stand on its own merits, which are negligible. The dude claims he was inspired by one of my PA favorites, Alas Babylon (please do note the diabetic daughter), but sadly One Second After has none of its charm and verve.
My very first issue, is that in a PA book, you want that moment when the crap has hit the fan, and you as a reader, freak out along with the character. This...does...not...happen, at all. The other EMP book I've read, 77 Days in September at least gets this right, as it has the main character in the chaos of an airport, his plane having just fallen out of the sky during take-off. Speaking of Mr. Gorham, as I mentioned in my review of his book, he has a fair handle on dialogue, which is not something I can say for Mr. Forstchen. Let's just say that my eyes got all their rolling exercise in for this month in one big go. Just for fun, try saying "the complex web of our electrical distribution system" three times fast. Plus, who needs dialogue or plot when you can have EXPOSITION! Endless military history lectures? Hold back my swoon! Also, why describe something when you can just say it was like a movie/painting/historic battle.
I don't know why this wasn't speculative non-fiction. There wasn't a single part of the author's agenda that was better served by putting paper characters and a tired plot in front of it. I imagine he could have written a shorter and more compelling book without the veil of storytelling, which he isn't good at. Mr. Forstchen doesn't have the empathy or depth of understanding to think out of his narrow view, and it shows. Everyone outside of the core of group-think alpha male ex-military men are narratively insignificant, and the author clearly has little respect for women, liberals, gays, pacifists, minorities, the lower classes, etc. Additionally, Mr. Forstchen isn't afraid to wear his politics on his sleeve. If you are a White, 50+ conservative male, this is the book for you! Although, if you're a Southerner, you may find the portrayal of the South just this side of nauseating, so let's say that you should also be a Yankee, just to cover all the bases. This book is just one long list of stereotypes...does anyone want to guess who owns the convenience store?
Worse, the main character seems to suffer from a serious lack of self-knowledge. He frequently demands that others make sacrifices he refuses to make himself, and yet doesn't feel guilty about/see the irony in this. He effectively loots a majority of the insulin available in his little town for his own type-1 diabetic daughter, and then coldly agrees to triage out everyone else who only lives at the mercy of our advance medical technology (which mind you, we should feel guilty for taking advantage of..."America is like an exotic hothouse plant. It can only live now in the artificial environment of vaccinations, sterilization, and antibiotics we started creating a hundred or more years ago."). Toward the end of the book, he demands extreme measures to save his daughter, although 60% of the town's population is now dead from starvation, illness, etc. Who knows how many less-insulin dependent diabetics would have survived longer with that stolen supply, when his daughter had what was always a death sentence.
Plus, how on earth does a historian not know the proper use of "decimated." I guess the same way someone makes it through life without knowing the difference between "of" and "have."
Towards the end of the book, I finally figured out what had been bothering me about this story, and it's that it uses the oldest plagiarism trick in the book. That's where you say that you're referencing Source A, in this case Alas Babylon, while in fact taking from Source B whole hog, in this case The Stand, which suddenly explains why this book consists of endless meetings about restructuring society. Bad news for me--I hated The Stand...because of the endless meetings. Oh, but wait, Stephen King actually makes his characters different from each other. Oh well, guess you can't steal everything, especially if you're a hack who shouldn't be writing fiction.
There is not a single redeemable thing about this book. I recommend that you instead read any other post-apocalyptic book ever. Hell, I'd even recommend Eden over this.
Apocalyptic thriller chaos and death. Has many good information about what to do. If this series was a movie for TV, maybe more people will watch and learn something. Newton Gingrich wrote the forward, government, especially this one won't do anything to prepare for a EMT attack.
Perhaps this novel could be made into a drinking game. Whenever any character talks about “being Americans” or breaks into patriotic song, take a drink. That would make reading this book much more manageable. The main character is a pompous, self-appointed hero who cannot refrain himself from describing the tightness of various women's blouses. Sadly, this is in line with how most women are viewed in this book; there are some strong women but most are in caregiver roles while the men make the decisions and do their best to save the day. The writing itself falls into almost 100% exposition during the last half of the novel, and characters are quickly disposed of in a sentence or two. Thanks for the EMP information, but the "fictional" parts of this fiction book were sadly lacking.
Imagine this: One day out of the blue....no forewarning....everything stops. From simple things like digital watches to the most complex such as the entire power grid....everything shuts off. Gone. No power. No cars. Airplanes drop out of the sky. No communication. No weekly grocery deliveries to stores. No refrigeration. No restocks of drugs at the pharmacy. No nothing. All gone.
What would happen?
A friend recommended the After series to me because it's set in Western NC where I live. It made this story a bit more chilling because I know all the places, highways, towns....it really brought the idea close to home.
The basics: an EMP attack shuts down everything electronic....power, communications, most of the vehicles....everything shuts down in the blink of an eye without any warning. And it doesn't come back. A small community in NC faces an apocalyptic event.....what do they do about all the people stranded on the Interstate? What about roaming bands of thieves? Do they enforce martial law? How do they handle distribution of food? Medicine? How can they survive?
This book really got me to thinking about how much we depend on modern conveniences.....and how many days my family could survive on what we have in the house (even our can opener is electric, not to mention the stove, the refrigerator.....) What would happen (and how fast would things get dicey) if suddenly we blipped back to a world where we had to sustain ourselves DAILY. Waste management, water purification, safe food....it would all become very very important immediately. People with medical conditions would suffer immediately as medication supplies dwindled. The very young. The elderly. The infirm.
And the scariest part of the entire story is the fact that it could actually happen. EMP is not sci-fi....it's actually possible.
This book is not only an exciting story about survival....but it is also quite thought provoking. How many people in America know how to hunt? Grow their own food? Go without running water, electricity, a vehicle? Not just for a few hours...or a day....but for weeks, months, years....possibly forever. What if we all had to learn how to sustain ourselves.....who would survive? And who would die? For me, the setting near where I live really brought that message home....literally.
Chilling and very interesting premise! Well-told and expertly written. I already have book 2, One Year After, downloaded and ready to go.
Mixed results in some ways, but overall this is an important book.
Numerous grammatical errors. I blame both author and editor a bit in this area. They are not disasters, but certainly should have been caught: "'He wished he would of...", "the apples were growing too slow.". These are not colloquialisms; they are errors. Multiple typos can be found in in Kindle edition. For some reason on a few words you will find space characters inside the words, as if there had been some software-generated hyphens on syllable breaks which were later replaced by spaces. Alas Babylon is better narrative, even though a bit dated. Decent story line! Very interesting and compelling idea on the EMP. All that complaining aside, this is still quite an interesting book, including some very gripping battle scenes, and I am glad I am taking the time to read it. I ~do~ recommend reading this to any American. What erases the complaints is a compelling story that could come true in spades.
Now that I am fully through the book, this really is an excellent story, despite the noted flaws.
Alas, Babylon has been updated for the new millennium with this novel. I strongly recommend reading this from a quite realistic 'what if' scenario. It was a 'read in one sitting' novel, well crafted technical thriller around a significantly under-rated national risk. The author clearly put a great deal of personal passion into the novel, which shows through in the writing quality and intensity of characterization.
I didn't enjoy this book at all. It was easy enough to read, but huge sections of the book seemed to be dedicated to the protagonist explaining things to the other, poorly defined characters. It was almost like reading a briefing note, or an informative pamphlet. It was entirely “tell” instead of “show.”
Second: the protagonist was a HUGE hypocrite. This would be fine, but at no point in the novel does he, or anyone else, ever realize that he has this character flaw. On multiple occasions throughout the story he makes, “the tough decisions” regarding rationing of food, medicine and luxuries like running vehicles, but only after he has managed to take, steal or bribe someone so that he has more then his fair share. Again, this would be fine, if it was written as a flaw that he recognizes and feels guilty about, or as something that those around him notice, but on the one occasion that he is actually confronted with his hypocrisy, the person who brings it up ends up apologizing for suggesting that he follow the rule that he himself is proposing. Also, he has apparently made sacrifices for his family in the past, but you'd never know it by reading this novel. Life as they know it is obliterated and we get, maybe, three scenes in the entire book where the guy actually sits down to see how his kids are doing with the apocalypse.
Third: Other then the protagonist, no other character in the book seems to have any personality or opinions of their own. When they do have an opinion its a complete straw-man argument, presented so that the main character can explain to the individual how stupid they are. Very, “thank heavens that we don't have to argue about liberal vs. conservative issues anymore, now that we know the conservatives were right all along.” I know small towns are homogeneous, but not to the point where people, whose lives are on the line, will just accept that they're going to do what their told regardless of the consequence.
Finally: my edition of the book had a forward by Newt Gingrich. This is not a person I respect and unfortunately I kept picturing the main character as Newt. This didn't help with point 2 (above).
At the recommendation of a friend, I purchased a hardbound copy of One Second After at B&N. I don't even want to claim I finished it. There were too many grammatical errors and editorial mishaps for me to stomach. Perhaps 100 pages in, I decided to stop reading before replacing "of" for "have" started to sound acceptable, and the sexually creepy male characters seemed reasonable.
The book was promptly donated to Goodwill, and I began to seriously question my friend's sanity (and literacy). How is it possible we attempted to read the same book and he didn't smell the stink of it? I mean, come on, you know when you're smelling spoiled milk. Everyone will agree it's soured.
Is the poorly-executed message worth hearing? Probably.
Is this novel really the "must-read" so many people claim it is? If the answer is yes, again I don't want to believe we're talking about the same book.
Will I give this book another try? Nope, unless a new edition is released that promises to deliver grammar, writing and characters that won't make my soul weep.
Eye roll after eye roll. Read this because of its interesting premise and its location in Western NC. Mistake. Only the author's military characters are portrayed positively, women and "hippies" are described as basically worthless human beings, the main character is a hypocrite of the highest order, almost the entire book plays out in conversations between military characters (classic "telling, not showing" writing mistake), and there's no attempt at character development whatsoever in an end of the world scenario (a ridiculously difficult error to make). "One Second After" is a pro-military propaganda piece thinly veiled as fiction, nothing more. "Alas Babylon" and "On the Beach" this most certainly is not. Sad I took the time to read it.
Good, scary and heartbreaking. I really enjoyed it, it reminded me of The Stand. * BUT WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH ALL THE SHOULD OFs AND WOULD OFs?! * And there were just too many "We are all Americans", "This is still America, for God's sake". * Other than that, absolutely lovely.
There's a lot wrong with this bit of fiction. It starts out with an introduction by Newt Gingrich, is too realistic, & the dog dies while the hero lives. Please! Kill off the hero or wipe out a town, but don't kill a devoted dog. Still, with all those evils, I had to give this book 5 stars & I have to recommend it to everyone.
I read this without expecting much. No, I was prepared to disdain it completely when I saw people comparing it to On the Beach, Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb, & Alas, Babylon. I've read & discussed those 5 star books for decades. They're classics & are not to be compared to lightly. Worse, this book has the temerity to mention & compare portions of itself to them. How dare it?!!! An author can only do so if their book is as good.
This one is actually better. Honestly - keep reading & don't pick up the stones yet - I'll always love those old classics, but time has moved on & their scenarios have become less likely. The Cold War days are gone, thankfully. Unfortunately, today we have terrorism funded by rogue nations & insane dictators. Technology has become more entrenched, powerful, vulnerable, & our world is vastly more complicated. The US is a complex Rube Goldberg machine that spews an abundance that we take for granted. Even I do & I'm far more aware than most about where my food & the other products I use come from & how they get to me.
And that brings us to the meat of this book. What if something fairly major were to break, such as our electrical grid due to an EMP attack? No lights for a while, but probably not a big deal, right? Wrong. Worst case scenario is that a large one could damage a huge amount of the country's infrastructure (Internet, phones, electric) including things like backup generators for hospitals & vehicles. Not only couldn't you drive to work, but the trucks & trains that bring in the food you eat might not be scheduled, sent, or even able to run. Remember that, the farmers, 1% of the people, feed the other 99% plus others around the world, but they do so only through long, complex supply chains. Where does the bulk of your & your neighbors food come from? Are you a diabetic? Where does your insulin come from? What happens if everything from the Internet down to even the radios are fried & there is no communication save by word of mouth or hand delivered notes? And people get hungry?
This book does a fantastic job of looking at the extreme side of an EMP event that knocks out all electrical power & newer technology. It follows one man, his family & his town, for a year. He's a well educated & rounded guy, a history professor & a retired Army Colonel in a small college town. His personal experience is the story, his memories of historical events, films, & books provide comparisons that are both accurate & horrifying in their realism.
Don't move to Montana & start stocking up on ammo, though. Here's the Wikipedia explanation of a nuclear EMP event: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear... Read through it & check around. Ignore the partisan politics & try just to look at the middling scenarios. You'll see that we're not quite as likely to have such a catastrophic event as depicted in this book & touted by Newt, but that's not to say this is completely off base. One bomb might not create as much havoc, but a few could. Iran & North Korea are experimenting with nuclear devices &/or missiles. A lot went missing when the USSR broke up, too. Terrorism is getting crazier & more sophisticated all the time. We rely more on consumer goods & daily influxes from around the globe. Our economy & supply system is balanced on a knife's edge, so the ingredients are there for a major catastrophe.
Most importantly, this book should give every reader an appreciation for the tower of cards we live on. It's a grand tower, but amazingly delicate & complex. There is little redundancy built in & most of us are woefully unprepared for any sort of disaster, even a minor one. It's also a scary look into how fast humanity could revert to barbarism & just how artificial our current society is. There's plenty of food for thought well beyond the obvious story.
Some books get a 5***** rating due to their shear literary greatness, others because they are genre leaders, but the book One Second After gets my 5***** rating due to the sheer realism of the book, and the extremely possible doomsday scenario it sets forth. America, without even knowing it, was under attack when a nuclear missile explodes in the atmosphere and "one second after" all electrical power is lost in the country. It is a doomsday scenario that is, unfortunately, all too possible and can occur,as here, with an Electro Magnetic Pulse or via a severe coronal burst of our sun sending harmful electro magnetic charges towards earth. No matter which way it comes, it is lethal to any country and any countries way of life. Not much of a doomsday/suvivalist lit guy, but this book was a way too powerful wake up call about the dangers we face in our modern electronic driven world. It is a book that we should all read and take into consideration. Our grandparents and great grandparents faced the hardships we would now encounter, but had a better infrastructure and ability to live without an electricity driven society. I do not advocate a back to grass roots, back to the beginning style change in our lives, but we all need to realize how dependent we are upon electricity and if the power went down via an EMP attack, so would our country. I am not about to review the actual details of the book, but every person needs to realize that we are so dependent on our food and medical supply chain, all of which shuts down if there is no electricity, as well as how precariously we live in a world dominated by push button controls and computers that have taken over all aspects of our lives. This book really made me concerned about what our country and others are doing to avoid such problems. The same day the 9/11 Commission came out with their report the Congressional Commission dealing with Electro Magnetic Pulse issues came out with their report. One report we focused upon, and the other was buried. Guess which one is a actually a bigger threat to our lives and lifestyles???
This book pressed all my crazy buttons. As a liberal Democrat I am seriously ready to buy a gun, start stock piling food, medication, and have actually been searching survivalist web sites. I am terrified. Set in a bucolic little mountain town in North Carolina, this is the story of the United States that starts the second after an EMP attack. This is a real scenario, based on real science. Small nuclear bombs launched just above the atmosphere send an electromagnetic pulse that utterly and irreversibly destroys the electrical grid and ever electrical device in the US. No communication. Every car with electrical engineering (basically anything built post-1980) stops where it is and no longer moves. No lights, no HVAC, no refrigeration. From this small town we see what happens when people are stranded, the food and medical supply chains disintegrate, and communities have to re-organize to feed and protect themselves. The breakdown of society is terrifying. Medicine and technology keep huge percentages of every community alive, and when these supports are removed the death count soars. Lawlessness from people who are desperate to survive requires martial law and citizen tribunals, sometimes requiring death penalties. The chilling thing is that the EMP scenario is well known and understood, but there has been no formal preparation. Some sites and secure locations have been "hardened" to withstand an EMP, but not hospitals or other civilian services. The cost was deemed prohibitive. Communities practice Red Cross drills to prepare for natural disasters, but where are the policies for keeping order in the event of an EMP and loss of electricity and transportation networks? This novel clearly lays out how quick a slide it would be back to life in the middle Ages, in all its harshness, hunger and brevity. As Hobbes said, "nasty, brutish and short." The writing is unimpressive, and the single African- character in the entire novel is two steps shy of an Uncle Tom. This is a book written to terrify white men into action. It sure scared this white lady! Like Cassandra I am now warning everyone about the vulnerability of this country to the devastation of an EMP attack and the need to prepare basic survival stores. Prepare, people, prepare!
Although fiction, this book is a very believable & terrifying account of how life continues and changes after an Electric Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon is set off over the USA. According to the forward, this weapon actually does exist and destroys all things run by electricity which makes the story all the more frightening. Think no communication/cell phones/computers, no vehicles produced after the late '70s, no refrigeration/air conditioning, no ability to produce basically everything that we have come to depend on in our daily lives...and that's just for starters.
The story centers around a man and his family in a small North Carolina town and what he is capable of doing to help not only those he loves but the townsfolk to survive and carry on after basically being 'blasted' back to the Dark Ages.
For me, just knowing that this weapon is a reality and could be used against our country or any other was as frightening as any horror novel I've read. The impact of such a weapon would be devastating. This is one of those books that stayed with me and made me think for quite some time....could I be a survivor or more to the point...would I even want to be?
This is the first book in a series. In this one, America is attacked by an EMP that wipes out all electronics across the country. This story takes place in a small rural town in North Carolina and we see how the residents of this town handle this crisis.
Reading the reviews for this book on this site I see that it is divisive. Readers seem to really hate this book or really love it. As you can tell by my rating I loved it. The selling point of this novel is that this could really happen and how ill prepared as a society we are if it does. I thought the realism leapt off the pages and is thought provoking. Maybe I was swayed with my thinking because of the current pandemic and how people reacted to that when it first hit. Imagine it being so much worse and that is this book. I loved the look into this major tragedy but on such a small level of one town. It just showed how we are part of something larger but also a small unit. The unknown of what is going on is palpable but also the same time the look into trying to survive today and the near future is fantastic.
I was immediately enthralled with this book and it would not let me go. It made me think on what would happen if this happened and if I would survive. It made me think of how much I take for granted and how easy some things are today. It did this while several times I suffered from "the feels" as characters had to deal with tragedy. I know there are many reviewers who dislike this book but I thought it was an amazing read.
Run as far from this book as you can. It is, without question, the worst book I have ever read. And to offer some context to this remark, I read Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades of Grey is a far greater read than this tripe. The protagonist is a whiny, self-important, sexually depraved, cigarette-addicted, horse's a-hole. I wanted to punch the guy in the face. I got halfway through this drivel and feel it is my absolute duty to warn everyone about this travesty.
The story takes place in a mountain town in NC. An electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) was unleashed with the detonation of a nuclear weapon somewhere high above the US in the stratosphere, and it has wiped out all electronic devices in the US. John, the protagonist, is a retired colonel/professor raising two teenage daughters. His saintly wife, Mary, has passed and it is made clear the daughters are a major cock block for him. When the EMP event occurs, John is able to determine the magnitude and implications of this attack. His mother-in-law, Jen, drives an Edsel, and because the car does not have any electronic systems, it is not impacted from the EMP. OK, here is why I loathe, detest, condemn, curse this dopey book - the main character has the only driving car in the town and he is the only person in his town to understand the magnitude of the EMP. He does not offer the use of the car or himself to help during this tragedy. Doesn't offer to check in on vulnerable neighbors, evacuate people, transport emergency personnel, deliver food to the needy. Nada. Instead, he threatens emergency personnel if they try to take his car. The only assistance he gives is to the convenience store owner to hoard cigarettes and to gouge anyone who wants them. A day or two after the event, he wanders into a CVS to get insulin for one of his daughters. It has become clear that lawlessness has taken hold of the town and the CVS store in particular. The poorly developed story line has the store's pharmacists coming into work as if it were business as usual. It's a stretch to conceive a plot that has pharmacies operating during anarchy. Anyway, the main character saunters to the head of the long line waiting to get medication and proceeds to harangue one of the pharmacists to give him an excessive supply of insulin for his daughter. Then he proceeds to browbeat the pharmacists for allowing the mayhem in the store to occur. Seriously? This character is a major douche. On about day five, he takes his mother-in-law to the nursing home where his father-in-law is a resident. Upon entering the home's grounds, they see residences wandering around the yard. As the characters enter the nursing home, it is devastating the state of dysfunction of the nursing facility. Dead people all around, filth, no water, body waste, etc. The main character approaches a catatonic/exhausted worker and proceeds to criticize her for not doing more for the residence. While I'm reading this part of the story, I kept wondering why the character didn't get up to the nursing home days before to retrieve his father in law and to offer assistance to the staff. I absolutely hate this character. He's an opinionated, carping a-hole. After this part of the book, I had to quit. Never once does the main character offer his military training to mobilize the community. He has access to his daughters and their friends and doesn't get them involved in volunteering during this emergency. Instead, they galavant in their pool while the rest of the world is falling apart. The character is sexually creepy. There were several references to inappropriate or awkward oggling of women which made the story feel icky. I can't and won't finish this book. While I was reading this book on my iPad, I was praying for an EMP to occur so I didn't feel like I had to finish this slop I paid for.