One Second After

Narrated by: Joe Barrett
Series: After (Forstchen), Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 17 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (22,798 ratings)

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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)

Featured Article: 20 Best Survival Audiobooks for the Prepper in All of Us


Whether we’re focused on the apocalypse or just an ill-timed breakdown on the side of a particularly remote road, there’s something about imagining survival scenarios that can be addictive. On some level, we all wonder if we would have what it takes to pit ourselves against the worst the world can possibly offer and make it out alive. That’s why it’s no surprise that survival literature is so popular, and that the stories in the genre are so diverse.

What listeners say about One Second After

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Cool Premise, Garbage Writing

The idea of a apocalyptic event caused by an EMP blast is an interesting premise (though hardly as novel as the writer seems to believe, given the "why won't anyone listen to me" apologia in the forward). Unfortunately, the writer poisons the concept with an overwhelming amount of political point-scoring and really just pathetic grammar for an author who is apparently a college professor. Red Flags: Forward by Newt Gingrich (yes, really) Bizarre naming choices: Everyone has a Biblical, monosyllabic name (Joe, John, Jim, Jen, Tom, Ben, Kate, Liz) and the protagonist's mother-in-law and daughter are both given the same name. It makes everything harder to follow for no discernable purpose. Mary Sue protagonist (Colonel, Professor, Doctor, owns lots of guns and one of the only functioning cars, which he just takes from his mother-in-law without comment, btw) clearly modelled after the author, which is just in poor taste Rampant Sexism (every woman is completely helpless and needs the protagonist to protect her; at one point the author states that the most dangerous thing is "a woman with a gun who doesn't have the guts to use it") Cringe. Guns solve everything: the first two conflicts are resolved by a "good guy with a gun." The second involves some pre-apocalypse drunk with a gun threatening to kill the protagonist. The protagonist unloads a few rounds at him and later the drunk slaps him on the back, laughs, and says this guy is alright. No better way to make new friends than by shooting at them... American exceptionalism: In every chapter, someone mentions something about this still being America dangit. Also, the only cars that survive the EMP are older-model American cars. It gets old fast. Grammar: "Must of" instead of "Must have." "Should of" instead of "Should have," again and again. Climate Change Denial???? This is the point when I gave up. In the middle of a random speech by the protagonist (get used to those), the author goes off on a tangent about climate change probably not being real, apropos of nothing. I instantly turned off the book and returned it. If you are still interested, I wish you luck.

67 people found this helpful

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White male fantasy for those afraid of change

Given that review title, I should probably specify that I'm writing this review as a white male, a native of Montana, a former ranch hand and welder, not as some ivory tower academic who's never gotten his hands dirty. With that preamble out of the way, this book is fundamentally a celebration of men who understand the world better than their errant wives, progressive daughters, or all those people who drive foreign-made cars and put their faith in technology. That central point of view just overwhelms both the narrator's voice and the plot: this is essentially a book-length lecture on how white men know best and will, just due to their own inborn integrity, do their reluctant damndest to save the silly women and snowflake liberals when the world inevitably falls apart. It's unfortunate, because the underlying question -- what would life in the aftermath of a massive EMP look like -- is fascinating, and the author has many of the technical/technological details right. The questions of what would happen at the societal, geopolitical and day-to-day survival levels in such a scenario deserve a thoughtful exploration seen through the eyes of a range of characters who truly see the world from different angles and who each have to grapple with a complete breakdown or reprioritization of many of the beliefs they've held dear. (Think about what the father, mother and son in The Road have to face, for instance, and how differently they come at the problem and arrive at differing answers.) Whatever potential lay within that premise, it's still waiting for someone to come along and mine it in a rich way.

20 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t finish

The main character just seems like this fake idealization of what conservatives think a person should be. “He” is the smart guy, “he” is the guy who uses his smarts to survive, “he” still manages to keep his morality during a difficult situation, “he” is the rugged individual and embodiment of “don’t tread on me”. Everyone else is a savage or an idiot. As someone else pointed out - where are the engineers and tech heads who would quickly see this situation as a challenge ? In a situation like this people would quickly band together to start getting critical resources and systems back online. Believe it or not, there are people out there who would take pride in helping other people. Little by little they would work through the problems. They wouldn’t just throw their hands up and say “welp, guess I’ll be a canibal”. Rotfl Garbage.

14 people found this helpful

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Phenomenal

Amazing narration, terrifyingly realistic story, this book is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

13 people found this helpful

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Shoulda Paid More Attention

I should've paid more attention to the fine print on the cover of the audiobook. When the foreword is by a serial adulterer posing as a conservative politician, how could this book be anything but a conservative diatribe? At any rate, the reader should've been a native Southerner... or at least a guy who could distinguish one southern accent from another. I recommend neither the author nor the narrator.

12 people found this helpful

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Eye Opening

Like many of the characters of this book, I never thought of the possibility of a civilization ending event, such as an EMP. Like the fictional citizens of Black Mountain, NC, I didn’t believe that this was even a plausible idea, let alone remotely possible. But, unlike those fictional men, women and children I grew to love and admire, crying at births and deaths and celebrating at the discovery of food, I have been awakened to the possibility of life as I know it coming to an end. As a result of this fictional, but all too real novel, I have began to prepare myself and my family for the possibility of any event that would put us at risk, particularly the events that threaten to end life as I know it.

7 people found this helpful

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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.

101 people found this 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.

157 people found this helpful

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The Good, Bad, and Overall...

The Good: Interesting approach on an overlooked threat. The Bad: Reminds me of the fear factory that is 24 hours news. Linear approach to hardships and obstacles faced during a world changing incident does not allow for alternative options not presented within the story. Lake full of fish - ignored, eat any source of protein - ignore insects, limited resources in a poorly defensible position - stay in place, enforce martial law on others - refuse to give up 'MY' car, have running cars - not apt enough to use them as generators, and the biggest: -use 'MY' morality to dictate your survival. For an Ex-military persona I would expect better survival techniques. Overall: The author makes reference to Jonestown fanaticism but fails to see his own hypocrisy in his own writing. The story is fine, the writing is apt, but this is mostly earmarked for the Kool-Ade drinkers who are rating this as firewall 5 stars. I bought it for $5.95 (sale) and got my money worth out of the story. Your mileage and/or Flavor-Ade may vary.

50 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t stop even if I wanted to

As a former nuclear power sailor, I’m familiar with the Compton effect and emp. This is a thought provoking venture into what would happen to our communities were we to be hit with an emp. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and an all too real threat. It will make you want to stockpile food, medicine, fuel, guns, ammunition, and every pre-80s era vehicle you can get your hands on.

5 people found this 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).

53 people found this 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

12 people found this 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

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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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Scullywag
  • 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 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this 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 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • Wzl
  • 12-01-13

Thought Provoking

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!

1 person found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • C M Brisbane
  • 07-31-20

So ridiculous

I really tried to give this one a go. Post-apocalyptic is my genre of choice, generally. I just finished 'Fever' this morning, and really wanted to continue my journey through imagined disasters. I had read a few recommendations for this book, and so I thought I'd give it a go. I'm not sure if it's just me being Australian, but the self-indulgent unrealistic drama plays in this book are incredibly annoying. I found myself despising the main character from early on, and knowing I would have to listen to the story from his point of view really deepened my discomfit. The whole thing comes across as the main character being so super smart, and everyone around him being dumb as a box of rocks. Dumb country hicks surrounding a professor from the big smoke, but at least the view up there is nice! Of course, the great American gun-worship came in early. This is usually part of any apocalyptic story based in the USA, and I do expect it, but if it's accompanied by decent, well-dimensioned characters, it's usually easy enough to get past. In this, the description of the main character's encounter with the hillbillies in his college times living in a farmhouse is just ludicrous. Sure, jan. They just immediately respected you after you shot at them with your big ol' gun when they'd just been calling you and your smart college buddies 'f*gg*ts'. FOH. Also add to this the fact that there's a quip about global warming being something that wasn't believed generally, and honestly that's all I need to hear from this 'too smart for hick town' dickhead.

1 person found this 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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michael Prior
  • 09-24-20

Great potential, very disappointing

Are you a Bible bashing, America loving, gun toting, amendment worshipping, militaristic climate change denier? If so, you'll love this book. If you're not any/all of those things, then don't bother. The idea of apocalypse due to EMP has great potential, but this book is really, really bad.

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  • Simon
  • 07-06-20

A most vivid dream

A very well told story and well worth the listen. The author really brings home the emotional reality in the final act. Keen to start the sequel now to see what happens next

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  • PotsnPans
  • 02-11-20

First time I thought Uh Oh.

A little slow in the first 40mins setting it up and I thought I would put it down and then bang. Game on. If I ended up in the apocalypse tomorrow and suddenly had to get it together this would be my go to. Enough honest prep for the regular folk that dont have hordes of beans and rice under the house. Enough reality so that the characters were real. Real people died. Real people survived. Surprised but one of my favourite in the genre. Loved the narrator of the first book but you get used to the second one soon enough (I just listened back to back while doing the garden). Narrator did a great job of the voices in this one and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Worth the read right to the end.

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  • Tim
  • 01-08-20

Great apocalypse book.

I thought it was well written. really makes you think what would happen if there was an EMP

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  • Nickolas
  • 08-20-19

An executive report in the form of a story...

Though I wish not to undervalued the performance of the reader, I can not highly recommend this book. My feeling is that the writer wished to showcase their extensive research and passion for war history, their patriotism and love for God and lost sight of the characters and story line. I felt no connection to the characters, no loss and no pain. Questions were left unanswered. This experience can only be akin to an executive report in the form of possible outcomes that may take place in the USA under such circumstances. Though I'm happy for the education, I'm unhappy with the experience.

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  • Stephanie
  • 03-07-19

Narrator rivals the great RC Bray!

Loved it, at times it was so real I could hardly listen. Amazing book, Amazing performance. About to download the second one.

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  • Darren
  • 12-16-18

Brilliant - Shocking, heartfelt and compelling

A brilliant mix of factually based content woven seamlessly with authentic emotionally charged feelings. While I found the religiosity a bit cloying, none the less I know that is authentic too. A pity the Walking Dead was so successful, because a series based on One Second After could have been even more compelling.