Sunday, July 24, 2011


I rarely use all capital letters to call attention to a book. One Second After by William Fortschen is worthy of rule-breaking. Picture this: Everything you own powered by computer chip stops working in a split second. You are on the freeway heading home. Suddenly, your car conks out for no apparent reason along with all the cars around you. You reach for your cell phone. No signal. You are surrounded by desperate people. People who can't get where they want to go. People who have no food. People who can't contact their families. How long will it be before civilized society breaks down?

The precipitating incident is known as EMP, a nuclear event using electromagnetic pulse waves. Fact: if a nuclear weapon is detonated above the earth's atmosphere, it generates pulse waves that travel at the speed of light. When the waves hit the earth's surface, it destroys the electrical grid. Bye-bye modern conveniences. Hello Dark Ages.

The story is told by protagonist, John Matherson, a history professor in the college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Three years prior to this event, his wife died of breast cancer. John is trying his best to raise two teenage girls, one of whom is diabetic. Before long, the town of Black Mountain is faced with challenges unheard of in modern times. How do you handle hordes of hungry people invading your town?
The body count is rising. The cemetery is full. Where do you bury the bodies? Answer: You use the community golf course. And, In Matherson's case, how can he keep his daughter alive without insulin?

Is EMP real? Yes. Were the disasters resulting from such an attack exaggerated in One Second After? It's possible. Does the book contain glaring grammatical errors? Yes. That said, if you start this book, make sure you have a block of time set aside because you won't stop until you reach the end. Word of warning: if you're not a Newt Gingrich fan, you may want to skip the foreword written by him. It does, however, put forth some interesting theories.

Have you read One Second After? Do you have an opinion about EMP? If so, please leave a comment.

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