Already cited on the floor of Congress and discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a book all Americans should read, One Second After is the story of a war scenario that could become all too terrifyingly real. Based upon a real weapon - the Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) - which may already be in the hands of our enemies, it is a truly realistic look at the awesome power of a weapon that can destroy the entire United States, literally within one second.
This book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future and our end.
©2009 William R. Forstchen; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[An] entertaining apocalyptic thriller....fans of such classics as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach will have a good time as Forstchen tackles the obvious and some not-so-obvious questions the apocalypse tends to raise." (Publishers Weekly)
The preaching about the dangers of relying on technology gets a little old. If it had been straight-up post-apocalyptic thriller, it would have been fine; throwing in a couple of comments about how dependent we had been on technology would have been OK, too, but the book really beats it into you. Still, I could hardly turn the audio off on this one. If you are interested in similar themes (minus the preaching), try Lucifer's Hammer (huge meteorite) or The Stand (flu pandemic).
This story was harrowing. I downloaded it as the daily deal and was just checking to make sure the down load worked correctly when I found myself hooked. I listened to the whole book in a matter of days putting aside the book I was currently reading. The narrator did a great job but the story itself captured a sense of truth that made it seem terrifyingly possible. On a personal note, having survived a six day power outage with no water and no where to go after a hurricane and earthquake and flooding several years ago, the reactions of the characters rang true. The deadly aftermath of the EMP attack really made me think about being prepared for disasters in future. Thought provoking. Be warned --considerable graphic violence. Disturbing.
Did the tobacco lobby fund the publishing of this book? Granted, I'm a smoker, but it started to seem that every chapter had to mention the joy of cigarettes, or how many the protagonist had left in his pack at any given moment. It became distracting. Added to the comically one dimensional characters I found I could not take it anymore by the half way point. As much as I enjoy a good disaster yarn, I was unable to make it through this clunker.
I should have listened to the reviews--if I had, I wouldn't have tried to listen to this book. The reader is fine, no problem, but... the story? I love dystopian 'end of the world' stories, whether the 'end' is via zombies, flu, nukes, whatever. I enjoy reading and thinking about how one copes with harsh new environments, trying to survive. But this book is not... that. This is a tedius, finger-wagging LECTURE, period. The protagonist is a professor (surprise, surprise!), everyone around him, after the EMP hits and destroys the U.S., endlessly asks him 'what's it all mean? And, 'what's it all about', and the professor LECTURES them (and us, alas) ad infinitum, boringly and endlessly, about our reliance on technology, til you could just keel over and die of boredom. The book pretends to have an actual story--the professor has two daughters, one of whom is diabetic, and of course, medicine is an immediate emergency, but to me anyway, the actual 'story' is thin and fake. The book is simply an excuse--an excuse for the author to lecture (endlessly!) about mankind's reliance on technology. Boring and annoying--trust me, don''t waste a credit.
Reader. Wannabe writer. That's a picture of me standing in line to see Stephen King!
I think not!
But I get it. This is meant to be a cautionary, worst case scenario tale against doing nothing to prepare against an EMP event. If that was the goal, then I think it could have been better handled as a satire, (A Modest Proposal) because Forstchen’s portraiture of America and Americans didn’t ring true for me.
In under a week the protagonist, John, is publicly executing looters. In less than 20 days this small town representation of America has turned into a “show me your papers, please,” East Germany, and in less than two months the author has us devolving into cannibalism. Not unlikely events, to be sure, but on that timeframe when all the buildings are still habitable, roads passable (with the dead cars out of the way), potable water and fertile land? Bear in mind, there’s been no direct nuclear devastation, no pandemic, no major natural disaster – no zombies or aliens. Power is out, communications are down and transportation is limited.
In trying to paint this bleak picture of America, Forstchen neglects one of the ingredients that makes America, America: imagination. If we lost the use of our cars, and cell phones, and computers, and drugs we would be annoyed and frustrated – and scared, but we wouldn’t become helpless to the point of cannibalism in less than 60 days! Not our DIY, “think globally, buy locally,” live off the grid, alternative fuel, ride your bike to work day society!
Throughout the story, too many times I caught myself thinking things like, “wait a second! You mean to tell me that a small community outside of progressive Asheville doesn’t have a co-op run organic farm or a community garden? It has horses but no mounted police? No farriers? No yuppie urbanites with $3000 dollar bicycles to form a courier system or bicycle brigade? Really?”
This is a town made up of chain smoking college professors and ex-military, Cold War military. There appear to be no artisans, blacksmiths or gunsmiths... or carpenters, electricians, or plumbers. The youth at the local college are particularly useless and only good for training as militia. Where are the nerds – the engineers, the techno and auto geeks who would view the lack of electricity and functioning circuitry as a challenge? There are Civil War re-enactors, but no Native American folk-life demonstrators, or traditional life-ways practitioners? There are “survivalist-types,” but none with a stockpile of MREs? Really? And no one, except for the campus security guard, demonstrates any real individual leadership, not even our protagonist. He gets placed into leadership positions through circumstance.
In the best post-apocalyptic, dystopian future novels (think Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Atwood’s A Handmaiden’s Tale, Orwell’s 1984 or King’s The Stand) the “bad thing” happens before the story and the story is about how the indomitable human spirit overcomes. In the end, One Second After is a cautionary tale against homogeneity and the loss of imagination – killers of our human spirit, for without that, whether we face a super flu epidemic, an EMP strike or the zombie apocalypse, our society is lost.
I really enjoyed this book!! I am very interested in history, anthropology, geopolitics and other topics. Because of my broad interests, I found this book compelling on several levels.
Too many people are getting uptight as they are strangled by their varied perspectives to evaluate this book fairly. The fact is that it is not only plausible, it could happen today. The time line laid out was both scary and fascinating.
I found the writing, narration, technical accuracy and of this novel to be excellent. Also, as a former infantry officer I can say the author has an impressive understanding of land warfare.
1) The basic premise is totally inaccurate. The book assumed that an EMP would knock out ever single electronic device manufactured after the 1960's without exception. That's simply not true. In fact, the commission on EMP talked about in the epilog of the book says that 10% of cell phone calls will go through 2-days after such an attack even directly under the detonation (where the pulse is the strongest). In other words, cell phones will not be destroyed - just most, but not all, of the tower. Most computers and even most radio equipment, especially of not connected to an antenna and many vehicles would survive. However, it is accurate that most of the power grid and telephone will be taken out but some parts would survive and most spare parts in storage would still be good.
2) The book claims that cults of cannibalistic satanists, some numbering over 10,000 strong will form all over the country and will wipe out (and eat) whole communities. Really? Most people are good - and even many of the bad ones would never eat human flesh no matter how hungry they get. There would be some that would if hungry enough (Leningrad) but then join satanic cult on top of it? Not even remotely plausible. Are there "bad people" out there? Psychopaths? criminal? Absolutely, but I believe that in a time of crisis, these people are quickly "taken out" by the many more people that have a solid moral compass.
3) The book claims it would take this community in North Carolina over a year to get any form of help from the government. Yes, the government is not known for fast, efficient service but a full year? Really? How long does it take to fill a cargo plane and fly it over a community and drop supplies? Yes, there will be cargo planes available, even if you buy that all planes on US soil were disabled - this is a big planet and the US has resources all over it that can be mobilized.
4) The book claims it takes months for the government to get any kind of radio broadcast to the public and then only from a carrier off the coast. Totally BS. Setting up a transmitter is simple and getting them even simpler, even if the government has to strap a few to the passenger seat of a jet fighter and fly them in from the far reaches of the planet. Low Power AM transmitters are small, cheap and can transmit signals for hundreds of miles. It would take days to put together a simple nation wide repeater network, even if it had to be built from scratch.
5) The politics of this book are pervasive and extremely annoying. This book was clearly written from a neo-conservative, "if you aren't with us, you are against us", misogynistic, anti-"bleeding heart liberal", racist point of view but it also tries really hard to pretend not to be any of those things which makes it come across as being even more disingenuous. This is written with a world view that evil is always lurking just under the surface ready to take over at the first sign of weakness, that only the strong can possibly survive in a time of crisis and that violence is the only way to maintain order. Also total BS.
6) The story claims that the city of New York, a coastal city of 20 million people, was reduced to only 25,000 savages. Really? How hard would it be to send a ship filled with supplies into the city? Far easier than almost anywhere else in the country so why does he think New York would be doomed? Too many "got-damn liberals"?
There are more reasons why this book is terrible but I think that's enough to make my point. To be fair, it wasn't so bad that I couldn't finish it. I kept listening, mostly to hear what outrage would be uttered next...
The performance was OK but there were times when it was pretty bad and it made me cringe.
I knew I was in trouble when I read the forward, by Newt Gingrich!
There were so many things wrong with this plodding, heavy-handed, book, which I won't repeat hear since they have already been pointed out in the many, well deserved, negative reviews above.
When I am reading about something I know very little about I take note of the things in the narrative I do know about, which gives me a clue as to how well researched the subject is.
I am a nurse so I took note of the medical aspects of this book. I noted that the author has his nurse character identifying a diabetic, who points out that medical professionals are able to do this; "just by looking", which is nonsense. We also don't say "heart Arrhythmias", we say Cardiac Arrhythmias", and we certainly don't suture infected, 3 day old wounds closed; that 3 days earlier we dressed. I found it interesting that the doctor, who examined the wound later, was impressed with the suture placement.
Based on how poorly the author researched the medical aspects of this story I'm inclined to dismiss much of the rest of what he presented with respect to EMP's for example.
As mentioned in other reviews his characters are not only 2 dimensional but the author has them doing things that are totally out of character For example, our protagonist steps out of character when he enters the nursing home; that is in a deplorable state, and, aggressively, attacks one of only caregivers who has not abandon her patients, demanding to know "the meaning of this", which it's abundantly clear!
Finally, before I deleted this book from my device, I marveled at the mileage that old Edsel was getting because the protagonist drove that old car all over town, and out, for days and it never ran out of gas!
I found it really difficult to take the subject of the story seriously. I was so clichéd and formulaic, with no surprises! In other words "Boring" and insipid!
Author of Stitch Alchemy
The writing was depressingly shallow and none of the characters reacted as they should. Although the main character is a Colonel in the military, he is constantly shocked and surprised by the way people are reacting to what appears to be an apocalyptic emergency. Then, during a mad rush for supplies, he takes time out to explain everything from the history of EMP's to which countries have been working on strategic weapons, to a bunch of townspeople who have apparently been hiding under a rock. If the town were populated by ten year olds, I expect they'd be more educated. It is unfortunate when a novelist has to cram his entire back story into a pedantic monologue at the feet of fools.
Surprisingly (or not surprisingly if this were a TV movie of the week which had to wrap up in 2 hours), despite heavy looting our hero is able to find just the thing he needs, untrampled and hidden all the way in the back where no other person has managed to find it.. The last bags of ice, the last candy bars, the last cans of Ensure. This guy's incredibly lucky! The rest of the town is not very persistent in their quest for survival, so they keep leaving the last of everything for him!
For a great post-apocalyptic book which is as fresh as the day it was written, try "Alas Babylon" by Pat Frank, and don't waste your money on this badly put together junk. I don't bother writing bad reviews, but I'm so disappointed that I spent money on this and I'm done assaulting my ears, so into the trash bin it goes.
The reader did a great job with a terrible script.
"Disturbing and Very Irritating"
I selected this audio book because the post-apocalyptic nature of the story appealed to me (saddo that I am...)
However it has a number of genuine challenges - which very nearly led to me throwing the towel in the first few hours of listening (frankly this was not helped by a foreword from Newt Gingrich).
- The narrative is peppered with endless patriotic "God Bless America", "America is the best", "we will endure because we are Americans" comments. These might be heart warning to Americans - for me, their frequency really irritated. And it comes across as slightly smug - from a nation that, whatever they might think, do not have a monopoly on freedom and democracy.
- There are constant references to soldiers, veterans, the military. I don't mean in a "grab a gun, the zombies are coming (they aren't)" sort of way. I mean in a "The American military and vets in particular are wonderful and we all owe them so much". I'm not saying they are not and that they (Americans) don't owe them. But be prepared to listen to a lot of it.
- The book is sort of like a report on the consequences of "the event which happens in the story" converted into a novel - but still sounding somewhat like a report.
What I will say in its favour is that it really does punch home some of the real day to day issues that almost certainly would be endured by people facing this sort of scenario. It has made me consider buying a lot of food in bulk and hiding at the end of my garage waiting for the world to collapse.
I don't think the book is well written in terms of the characters and the narrative framework - it is somewhat disjointed - the author is certainly no Stephen King.
In summary - this IS a post-apocalyptic story. It does go on and on about how wonderful America is. It's really just a warning about what might happen if America doesn't prepare for the worst.
If you want an atmospheric end of the world read - I would say this probably should not be top of your list (try Station 11 if you've not read that).
"Are you prepared?"
I love this genre but this was my first EMP novel and I wasn't disappointed it has loads of detail about the breakdown of civilisation that makes the scenario so much more real. My only complaint is that the author felt they had to add in the America forever strap lines which left me cold but overall a very good read if you like this sort of thing
"Assumptions and American Superpatriotism"
I'm afraid my opinion of this book differs greatly from so many of the other reviewers - I found myself annoyed throughout. The author obviously did his research on certain topics, but others he completely neglected and important parts of the story were based on weak assumptions. That added to the intense American nationalism and Deep South Republican attitude just left me shaking my head. I'll be taking Audible up on their lovely return policy and this is the first book I'll ever have returned based on pure dislike. The only good thing I can say for it is the narrator was fine.
"A shocking look at how fragile our civilisation is"
If all of our modern conveniences were taken away in a split second how long would it take our society to unravel? How long would it take civilisation to revert to savagery?
This book is a disturbing what if scenario which could become reality all too easily if not though EMP as depicted in this work then by other means such as economic collapse.
A truly riveting story which is shocking and disturbing along which some devastatingly heart-breaking moments.
This book will definitely leave you thinking, if not change your outlook on our times.
A Five Star Listen
This book really does well at demonstrating how dependent we have become on our electrical devices and gives an impression of how life would be if they were all suddenly taken away. If you enjoyed watching Jericho (or any other apocalyptic fiction) you will love this. Parts of this book will excite you, others will depress you, death is inevitable throughout.
"Best of the Genre"
I have listened to a few in this genre and this is the first that has managed to stir my emotions. Great story, well narrated and frighteningly easy to put yourself and your family in the story. Superb.
"Thought provoking storyline"
The book explores our modern dependency on technology and how vulnerable we become without it. The difficulties caused by an electronic meltdown were well explored, even down to areas such as those who are medication dependant as well as the more obvious issues such as food, water and power.
The book revolves very much around the lead character his family and their town so in that respect, tends not to compare to other books of the genre I have read. This book explores the disaster at the local level. If it were to happen, we would all experience the same issues.
I loved this narrator for his soft accent, good diction and measured pace.
The book does tug at the heart strings but would have done so much more with less schmaltz and a big lid on the patriotic We are Americans stuff. I understood what the author was trying to say with it but it was too heavy handed especially as the people causing all the trouble were also Americans too!
I enjoyed the book but felt that it missed the opportunity to be taken a bit more seriously and that is a shame. As with so many books today, I felt some of the story and the writing was sacrificed for the movie the author was hoping for.
"Pray it never happens"
Best book I've listened to for a while. Perhaps ever.
This book must've been good as I found myself talking about its scenarios over dinner, wondering to myself what *I* would do in a similar situation and getting emotional more than once as the story progressed. I guess it's really immersive - perhaps more so as an audio book, aided partly by the narrator's performance, which never pulled me out of the story once.
Pray it never happens
I've seen reviews of the paper book criticising the grammar. But as a 'read' book I never noticed any of this so I'm glad that I listened to it!
Enthralling! Thought Provoking!
John - a normal, caring individual
Makes John come to life.
Several moving moments - found myself crying as I drove
An excellent book which I have recommended to many friends. The manner in which modern life rapidly collapses is thought provoking to say the least!
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