Friday, August 26, 2011

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Heavily inspired by Pat Frank's post-apocalyptic classic, Alas, Babylon, Forstchen fast forwards to the early 21st century and instead of Alas, Babylon's post nuclear world, Forstchen's cautionary tale is one of an America crippled by an EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) attack.

On the surface the idea of an EMP attack seems far less severe than a nuclear attack as there's no fall-out to deal with nor any radiation sickness.  But stop and think about it, a sudden pulse that knocks out electricity across the country all at once.  Any device with ANYTHING electronic in it is fried.  Some cars (pre-1980) might still run but they'd be few and far between.  No Internet, no television, no radio-- basically we'd be completely cut off from each other.  Instead of a UNITED States of America government would suddenly be forced to turn completely local and we'd be scattered groups of city-states.

Without TV, radio, or Internet we would be left to speculate over what happened and who was responsible.  With Pearl Harbor there was radio to keep us informed, with the Kennedy Assassination there was TV and radio, with 9/11 there was TV, radio, and Internet to keep us informed.  Imagine being sucker-punched back into the 19th century....

And it gets worse-- 19th century technology can't support a 21st century population!  Something's got to give!

William R. Forstchen dares to imagine such a world in a cautionary tale in the tradition of great post-apocalyptic fiction like Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon and Nevil Shute's On the Beach.

What is especially chilling about Forstchen's book is stopping to take stock of your own situation as you read it. Would you be one of the lucky few survivors? or Would you be one of the unlucky many? If you're on prescription medication keep in mind there'd suddenly be a finite supply of it at your local pharmacy. If you suffer from any health ailments at all you'd find yourself more vulnerable with those who are stronger in the unenviable position of "triaging" the population to make sure the limited resources-- food, water, and medication go to those who are most likely to not only survive but help others survive as well.

While One Second After is not for the faint of heart or stomach it's an excellent read.  The characters are real and tangible-- you know these people or people like them.  Forstchen set the book in the town where he lives to give it a greater air of authenticity and making it all that more real to his readers.  ***** out of *****

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