One Second After
by William R. Forstchen
After an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) sends America back to the Dark Ages, John Matherson struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town. Without electricity, food and medicine spoil, clean water is in shortage, and the order of society begins to break down. Throughout all this, John must take a leadership role in his town and work to increase their chances of survival against all odds.
In addition to being an engrossing story, One Second After addresses a chilling reality that all Americans should be aware of. Forstchen mentions in the Acknowledgements that this book is meant to be a warning of a threat, EMP, a weapon which our enemies may already have acquired. In light of the recent nuclear threat from North Korea, you may find this especially enlightening and thought-stimulating. I think Forstchen does a remarkable job of raising awareness in his book. He outlines clearly the consequences of EMP, its immediate effects as well as what it could mean for the future of America. The two most important aspects of this issue are protecting against EMP and putting in place systems that ensure survival in the event that the defense fails. By describing what the horrifying aftermath of EMP looks like, Forstchen has effectively illustrated the urgency of addressing both of these concerns.
There are other issues that Forstchen raises as well. When food is in short supply, is it wrong to cut the rations of those who will die anyway in order to save those that could survive? Is it moral to give extra rations to those involved in more energy-draining tasks and hide this fact from the citizens? Is it brutal strategy or hardcore communism to take people’s livestock in order to provide for the community as a whole? These are just a few of the difficult questions that the author puts forth in his book. While it may seem as if he favors one view over the other, he represents each side fairly through the characters, presenting valid arguments for both cases.
One thing I do not like about this book is that too many characters have the same speech patterns. In real life, different people would have different ways of speaking and use characteristic phrases unique to them. Many of the characters, however, speak in similar ways and even use curse words in the same manner and to the same degree. This seems strange to me.
I would recommend this book for older readers. It contains a good deal of profanities and strong language of varying degrees. John also develops a relationship with a female nurse and occasionally notices some of her physical characteristics, although they never go further than speaking with each other. In addition, the author describes several deaths in detail, how the victims die as well as the body’s appearance afterwards. One Second After is an excellent book, especially because of the awareness it raises of a potential threat that could strike at any moment.