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Publisher's Summary

In a small North Carolina town, one man struggles to save his family after America loses a war that will send it back to the Dark Ages.

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.

Critic Reviews

"[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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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    9,330
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    4,035
  • 3 Stars
    1,364
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  • 1 Stars
    367

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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  • 4 Stars
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 1 Stars
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Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
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  • 1 Stars
    315
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A Realistic Worst Nightmare

Do NOT let the negative comments sway you; this is an EXCELLENT book. Maybe the impact regarding EMP is a bit overblown, but who cares!? It’s not about EMP, it’s about what happens to a modern society when it suddenly isn’t modern. The results are terrifying. Bill Forstchen’s conclusions may be extreme, but they are well thought out and certainly possible. While the story does continuously harp about our reliance on modern technology, that’s exactly what the characters are realizing as their modern day conveniences disappear nearly leading them to the point of utter despair. Some may also be put off by a political tone associated with religion and nationalism, but Forstchen supports this societal tendency by weaving in enlightening historical references as seen through the eyes of the main character. This is a fascinating book that holds your attention, smacks you across the face a few times, and hopefully makes you appreciate that iPhone you are currently taking for granted. Finally, Joe Barrett’s narration is also one of the best I’ve ever heard for an Audible book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A terrifying story

Any additional comments?

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.

79 of 92 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A page-turner, no doubt, but...

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).

199 of 235 people found this review helpful

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A look into what could happen.

Due to current events in this world we live, I've recently begun looking into more preservation techniques should something catastrophic happen in the U.S.

During my research, I came across a video discussing what the aftermath if an EMP burst entails. As a gamer, I had some prior knowledge on the subject as most shooters nowadays have some type of EMP based weapon and it always deals with knocking out electronics. So I did some more research and someone suggested this book.

Needless to say, this book is brilliantly scary and well written as well as well narrated. I truly fill this story lays out exactly what would happen in the aftermath of an EMP based attack. Its not a matter of if it could happen but when? This technology is real and we the people are not prepared. I wont go on a rant but this book is just great. I shed some tears, my heart rate escalated, its good. Buy it.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Wake Up People!

Very well written, lots of research with a great story line. The only draw back, the voices of the daughters. One too many "Daddy" for me! The girls sounded too whiney!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Bummer--I should have listened to the reviews

Any additional comments?

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.

100 of 125 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An excellent listen!

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.

Happy driving!!

62 of 80 people found this review helpful

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  • Cidney
  • New Orleans, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 07-05-12

A Civil War Re-enactor Saves a Community?

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.

280 of 372 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 09-20-15

Superb Post-Apocalyptic EMP Novel

Post-Apocalyptic novels, especially in the teen genre, seem the rage of the day. One Second After is not a teen book. It is about the potential damage wrought a real modern weapon called Electromagnetic Pulse or EMP. EMP is a nuclear weapon exploded in the atmosphere which would likely fry/disable virtually all electrical and electronic devices including the electrical grid, cell and land line phones services, and computers over a wide area, an area potentially as wide as most of the United States excluding only Hawaii andand parts of Alaska. The potential for such an attack is real and the results would be catastrophic. There are expensive technologies to harden electronics against EMP attack, but in the US only some military devices have been hardened.

This book is set in western North Carolina is very much about local impact of an EMP attack, but the locale would be typical of what is happening across the country. The athor has very recently released the second book in the series titled One Year After.

One Second After is an important book that helped to increase the attention of the executive and legislative branches of the US government to the risk of EMP weapons and the need for better preparation. It is a must read novel!

20 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Like a TV Movie of the Week

What disappointed you about One Second After?

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. <br/><br/>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!<br/><br/>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.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

The reader did a great job with a terrible script.

186 of 260 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 01-08-15

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).

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • BillyBlackBear
  • 03-21-14

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

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt L.
  • 12-21-16

Great Book

This is a great book. Well written, well paced and with strong characters you evolve throughout the book.

Ignore the reviews which mention an overdose of American patriotism - the book is set in an area where there are a lot of patriots and with a strong christian background. If these weren't in the book then it wouldn't be a true representation of the area or the people.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Rosemary
  • 10-02-15

Thought provoking storyline

What did you like most about One Second After?

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.

What other book might you compare One Second After to, and why?

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.

What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

I loved this narrator for his soft accent, good diction and measured pace.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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!

Any additional comments?

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 08-09-11

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Wilson
  • 05-26-11

Startling

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin
  • 07-01-10

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Miko
  • 06-07-14

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.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs Mac
  • 02-19-14

Pray it never happens

Where does One Second After rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Best book I've listened to for a while. Perhaps ever.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Pray it never happens

Any additional comments?

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy McD London
  • 12-02-13

Superb listen!

If you could sum up One Second After in three words, what would they be?

Enthralling! Thought Provoking!

Who was your favorite character and why?

John - a normal, caring individual

What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Makes John come to life.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Several moving moments - found myself crying as I drove

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex
  • 01-09-16

Thrilling survival fiction

A bit slow at the beginning but a fantastic story overall. The narration is ok and the story line really makes you want to go home and pack some rations.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • nigel
  • 08-27-17

scary

I found some elements of this title implausible however the vast majority was simply frightening in its simplicity.

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  • Andrew & Kath Paton
  • 05-30-17

Quite realistic book

Thought the lead into and whole storyline and realistic characters and the scenarios were believable. Best book I've listened to in past 100

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-27-17

very good<br />

very moving pulling at the heart
strings thought provoking and scary all at the same time

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  • Peter
  • 03-01-17

A Fair Warning

Well read drama though only an average piece of literature. The Author has a strong drive to bring his real concerns to his readership..

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  • christine denniss
  • 10-04-15

Plan ahead

My husband and I both plan to prepare survival packs and start organising supplies and food in case of something like this happening. Its not If it will happen but When.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful