I’ve been wanting to read One Second After by William R. Forstchen for a while. I finally got tired of waiting for it to become available at my local library, so I got the audiobook and just finished it today.
The story takes place in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina and begins on “The Day” when an electro-magnetic pulse fries anything containing electronics, and cuts the townspeople off from all forms of communication or contact with anyone not in their immediate vicinity. Most of the story covers the next two months, as they struggle to survive with no outside aid and no technology newer than about 30 years old.
I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic books that had an element of “Huh?”, where something just didn’t feel right, or I wondered if the plot would really play out like it was written. I didn’t have that problem with One Second After. Because Forstchen intended the book to be a warning that our government is not doing enough to protect the nation from EMP, he didn’t pull any punches in describing what life would be like without our electronics or electrical grid.
Hundreds die after only a few weeks, thousands after a few months, and 90% of the town is dead in a year. After just a few weeks they’re already debating whether to slaughter all the pet dogs in the town for food. There are rivalries, and alliances, with nearby towns, college kids turned militia, and a major battle with a gang of cannibalistic cultists.
Basically it reminded me a lot of the TV show Jericho, which has a very similar premise of a small town cut off from the rest of the country, not really knowing what’s going on and having to survive on their own.
It’s a little preachy on the dangers of EMP, and there are a couple of cheesy moments where someone spontaneously breaks out singing the Star Spangled Banner, but overall, I really liked it. It’s not the kind of book that I can read over and over, like The Road or The Stand, but it was good, and I’d highly recommend it for any fan of near-term post-apocalypse stories.