Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One Second After

One Second After by William R. Forstchen
Forge books; Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
March 2009
hardcover - 350 pages
Very Highly Recommended

Synopsis from cover:
New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen tells a story that might 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 that sends our nation back to the Dark Ages.
A war lost because of a terrifying weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). And it 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 realistic look at EMPs and their awesome ability to send catastrophic shockwaves throughout the United States, literally within seconds. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warned could shatter our nation. 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.

One Second After is a post apocalyptic novel that can be favorably compared to Alas, Babylon and On the Beach, only the story is updated to show just a small portion of what would happen to society if the nuclear explosions were calibrated to set off EMPs, a very real threat. Although Forstchen isn't, perhaps, a gifted writer, it is very easy to overlook any shortcomings in that area once you and the characters begin to understand the reality of what has happened. The story starts out rather slow and uninteresting - just an ordinary day in the life of Professor John Matherson, a retired Colonel living in Black Mountain, North Carolina. When the EMP hits, it's really a non-event until people begin to realize what has happened. There are some emotional moments in One Second After, as well as some horrific scenes, but I found it all very realistic, if not even a bit tame compared to what would really happen if our whole infrastructure failed. The lack of medications that we take for granted alone would potentially bring about horrific results. Think about it... do you know people on high blood pressure medicine, insulin, heart medication, and anti-depressants?

William R. Forstchen is a professor at Montreat College who specializes in military history and military technology. In One Second After, he examines what could potentially happen in his own community if there was an EMP strike. Newt Gingrich wrote the introduction to One Second After and Captain Bill Sanders, U.S. Navy, wrote the afterword.

Edited to add: Both my husband and son have now read One Second After and enjoyed it very much.

Very Highly Recommended - one of the best


Acknowledgments: "...I hope this book never comes true. The threat is real, frightfully real, made even more frightening when you take the time to study it, question the experts, and have a sense of history. The moment of a fall from greatness often comes just when a people and a nation feel most secure. The cry 'the barbarians are at the gates' too often comes as a terrifying bolt out of the blue, which is often the last cry ever heard." pg. 8

Newt Gingrich: "In short form here, when an atomic bomb is detonated above the earth's atmosphere, it can generate a 'pulse wave,' which travels at the speed of light, and will short-circuit every electronic device that the 'wave' touches on the earth's surface." pg. 11

Newt Gingrich: "Few in our government and in the public sector have openly confronted the threat offered by the use of but one nuclear weapon, in the hands of a determined enemy, who calibrates it to trigger a massive EMP burst. Such an event would destroy our complex, delicate high tech society in an instant and throw all of our lives back to an existence equal to that of the Middle Ages." pg. 12

John paused and looked back down the street for a moment.
I'm living in a damn Norman Rockwell painting, he thought yet again, for the thousandth time. pg. 18

" 'Sweetie, I think you better check your blood sugar; you seemed a bit winded coming up the hill,' John finally said, and his words came out heavily, breaking the moment.
'Yes, Daddy.'
Jennifer leaned against the wall, took off her backpack and pulled out the blood-sugar test monitor. It was one of the new digital readout models. No more finger pricking, just a quick jab to the arm." pg. 25

" 'Look, John, something's up. Got a problem here. I gotta—'
The phone went dead.
At that same instant, the ceiling fan began to slowly wind down, the stereo in Jennifer's room shut down, and looking over to his side alcove office he saw the computer screen saver disappear, the green light of the on button on the nineteen- inch monitor disappearing. There was a chirping beep, the signal that the home security and .re alarm system was off- line; then that went silent as well." pg. 30

"'s weird down there. No traffic jam, just cars stopped all over the place." pg. 34

"Something had gone wrong, what, he still wasn't sure, but there were too many anomalies, with the power off, the cars stalled, except for the Edsel, no planes...Something was wrong." pg. 42

"Unlike the vast majority of men who had made careers in the army, he had never adjusted to early morning rising and hated all those who could do it, especially the cheerful ones. His instinct was to be a night owl, to go to sleep around two or three, then wake up at nine or ten for his first lecture at eleven." pg. 52

" 'So why didn't we just protect ourselves?'...
'Kate, it's some rather technical stuff, but it meant retrofitting a lot of stuff, hundreds of billions perhaps, to do all of it. And besides, a lot of people in high places, well, they just glaze over when scientists started with the technical jargon, the reports would go to committees, and..'
'And now we got this,' Charlie said coldly...
"Global warming, sure, spend hundreds of billions on what might have been a threat, though a lot say it wasn't. This, though, it didn't have the hype, no big stars or politicians running around shouting about it..." pg. 66-67

"We are as isolated now as someone in Europe seven hundred years ago and there is a rumor, just a rumor, that the Tartars are coming or there is plague in the next village." pg. 191

Captain Bill Sanders: "Unlike a lightening strike, an EMP explosion is both much faster in producing damaging power surges and much broader and far-reaching in causing simultaneous burnout and failure of electrical and electronic systems over a large area. A well-designed nuclear weapon detonated at a high altitude over Kansas could have damaging effects over virtually the entire continental United States. Our technologically oriented society and its heavy dependence on advanced electronics systems could be brought to its knees with cascading failures of our critical infrastructure." pg. 348

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