Book Review - One Second After by William R. Forstchen
Imagine that one day, just like any other day, you're driving down the highway and your car dies for no reason... as do the thousands of other cars around you. Electricity? Out. Radio broadcast? Nothing there but static (provided the radio even works). Cell phones? No signal, same as the landlines. It doesn't *look* like a storm took out power, but how do you explain the utter failure of everything that you depend on in your life? It could be an EMP... an electromagnetic pulse generated by a nuclear detonation high in the atmosphere that creates an electrical surge that destroys electrical devices as it races along. This is the premise of William R. Forstchen's book One Second After. The book can easily be thrown into the apocalyptic genre, but not so deeply that it loses its touch to people like you and me. I found myself emotionally spent after reading this book, having experienced a few "wet eye" moments along the way due to some similarities between the lead character's situation and my own should that ever happen to me. I really couldn't put the book down.
After the pulse renders much of modern civilization in the United States inoperable, the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina starts to come together to try and make sense of it all. John Matherson, a history professor with a military background, quickly figures out that an EMP is the most likely cause of the situation, and people start to look to him for leadership and moral guidance. And the testing starts early... People stranded on the freeway wander into the town looking for food and lodging. Stores begin to run out of food, and people start reverting to looting. Most importantly for Matherson, medical supplies dwindle, and he has a daughter who is a type 1 diabetic, dependent on insulin for her survival. He himself needs to tread a very thin line between playing by the rules or getting the extra insulin by force if necessary. His wife has already died of breast cancer, and he is not going to let another family member die if he can help it.
As the days unfold, the news only continues to get worse. Asheville is demanding that Black Mountain take 5000 refugees. They refuse the request as they don't have enough supplies for their own survival. Food continues to dwindle, and severe rationing is put in place. Martial law is imposed with death penalties for actions that endanger the survival of others. As more and more people die off due to existing medical conditions, disease starts to decimate the community given the lack of sanitary conditions. And the US government, the hope of survival for everyone in the town, is seemingly non-existent. The townspeople start to come up with "old-time" methods for doing things we take for granted, but it still doesn't solve the problems related to no food and no medical supplies, as Matherson soon finds out as his daughter's insulin supply continues to shrink with no chance to obtain any more.
One Second After is definitely not a story with a happy or "feel good" ending. Life has forever changed, sacrifice and duty are hard but necessary, and death is a daily companion, either for yourself or someone close to you. Reading Matherson's frustration and despair when it comes to his daughter's diabetes was especially hard, as I have a son with the same condition. I would end up in the same position as Matherson, with the same outcome in all likelihood. The scenes of battle against superior forces attacking the town were also emotional, knowing that kids who had weeks before been attending college were now spread out on the front line with rifles, ready to die to protect their fellow townspeople. It was hard not to get choked up over the heroic and selflessness displayed.
This is an excellent book on many different levels. It shows our vulnerability to a weapon such as an EMP attack. It exposes the true nature of human beings when societal controls are removed. It also shows how people can come together and sacrifice for the common good if they have a leader who is strong enough to make the hard decisions. This is definitely worth reading.
Obtained From: Library