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One Second After Mass Market Paperback – April 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this entertaining apocalyptic thriller from Forstchen (We Look Like Men of War), a high-altitude nuclear bomb of uncertain origin explodes, unleashing a deadly electromagnetic pulse that instantly disables almost every electrical device in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Airplanes, most cars, cellphones, refrigerators—all are fried as the country plunges into literal and metaphoric darkness. History professor John Matherson, who lives with his two daughters in a small North Carolina town, soon figures out what has happened. Aided by local officials, Matherson begins to deal with such long-term effects of the disaster as starvation, disease and roving gangs of barbarians. While the material sometimes threatens to veer into jingoism, and heartstrings are tugged a little too vigorously, fans of such classics as Alas, Babylon and On the Beachwill have a good time as Forstchen tackles the obvious and some not-so-obvious questions the apocalypse tends to raise. Newt Gingrich provides a foreword. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In a Norman Rockwell town in North Carolina, where residents rarely lock homes, retired army colonel John Matherson teaches college, raises two daughters, and grieves the loss of his wife to cancer. When phones die and cars inexplicably stall, Grandma’s pre-computerized Edsel takes readers to a stunning scene on the car-littered interstate, on which 500 stranded strangers, some with guns, awaken John’s New Jersey street-smart instincts to get the family home and load the shotgun. Next morning, some townspeople realize that an electromagnetic pulse weapon has destroyed America’s power grid, and they proceed to set survival priorities. John’s list includes insulin for his type-one diabetic 12-year-old, candy bars, and sacks of ice. Deaths start with heart attacks and eventually escalate alarmingly. Food becomes scarce, and societal breakdown proceeds with inevitable violence; towns burn, and ex-servicemen recall “Korea in ’51” as military action by unlikely people becomes the norm in Forstchen’s sad, riveting cautionary tale, the premise of which Newt Gingrich’s foreword says is completely possible. --Whitney Scott --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765356864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765356864
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5,385 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

WILLIAM R. FORSTCHEN has a Ph.D. from Purdue University with specializations in Military History and the History of Technology. He is a Faculty Fellow and Professor of History at Montreat College. He is the author of over forty books, including the New York Times bestselling series Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor (coauthored with Newt Gingrich), as well as the award-winning young adult novel We Look Like Men of War. He has also authored numerous short stories and articles about military history and military technology. His interests include archaeological research on sites in Mongolia, and as a pilot he owns and flies an original World War II "recon bird." Dr. Forstchen resides near Asheville, North Carolina with his teenage daughter Meghan and their small pack of golden retreivers and yellow labs.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

750 of 802 people found the following review helpful By PaulB on March 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fans of the author will not be disappointed by his latest work.
Forstchen examines the effect of an attack on the U.S.A. using an EMP(or rather three EMPs). The electro magnetic pulse ruins most electrical gadgets; computers and anything controlled by them, data storage, modern vehicles and planes, electricity generators,water supply, medical equipment, phones and radios.
The small town in which the story is set reverts to a barter economy and its shops soon run out of food and medicines. Local law enforcement has to cope with increasingly desperate local citizens,stranded motorists, and refugees from the big cities hoping to find food and shelter.
Forstchen examines the big issues mainly by looking at the impact on one family. This approach works well, and the reader is drawn in, wondering "what would I do in that situation?"
The reason I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5 may sound trivial. Every single "could have, should have, would have, might have" in the book is written as "could of, should of" etc.After reading several dozen of these I almost ended up shouting at the book. I guess I'm getting old.
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330 of 361 people found the following review helpful By aes74 on May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have read serial killer books, grisly murder books, but this was hands down the scariest book I have ever read. A book that caused me to lose sleep and kept me thinking long after I was finished reading.

The book follows what happens to an American community after and EMP attack is visited on our country. EMP occurs when a nuclear bomb is detonated above the atmosphere, causing every single thing in it's range containing anything electronic to fail. Cars, planes, pacemakers, electricity, you name it, it's gone forever. The country is immediately plunged into the dark ages, the population far too large to be supported by 18th century technology. Different parts of the country fare better or worse depending on their locations to urban areas. Gangs roam the land, bringing death and destruction to any remaining survivors.

What is frightening about this book is the fact that it is a very real possibility. The government is currently studying EMP attacks, as it is probably a more real threat than the thermonuclear attack we have always been raised to fear. If you ever had a thought of having your home prepared for a disaster, you will be propelled into action after reading the horrors entailed here for anyone who does not.

The day after reading I could not help but realize how fully dependent we are on electronics and technology. I found myself cataloging each thing I did during the day. How long can you last with the food in your pantry and maybe a week's worth of water before it becomes contaminated and cholera, dysentery, and thyphoid break out?

You may not have ever imagined America as a third-world country. This book will force you to.

By the way, if you have a project due or deadline, finish it before you pick this book up. It sucks you right in and you are compelled to finish it instead of doing anything else. I really came to love and care about the characters. It was hard to "watch" as the worst befell them.
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516 of 605 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Stackhouse on March 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I live in Black Mountain, NC, and am a personal friend of Dr. Forstchen, so I read this latest book of his with considerable interest. I would highly recommend it.

The EMP event he describes might presently be improbable, but is certainly possible. Nicholas Taleb would undoubtedly recognize it as a "Black Swan" event: something that lies outside the range of normal experience, but that has a catastrophic impact. Taleb pointed out that humans have a tendency to excessively discount and underestimate Black Swans, so I would encourage readers to be careful not to dismiss Forstchen's book just because the scenario he paints is improbable. Furthermore, an EMP attack is hardly the only thing that might result in the substantial or total collapse of the economy and civilization; there are a range of possible scenarios, and the practical effect of living through them and their aftermath might not differ all that much from what Forstchen describes.

Some might be tempted to feel depressed after reading "One Second After", or to consider Forstchen's outlook to be excessively pessimistic. On the contrary, I consider his to actually be a rather optimistic view. Importantly, his story line assumes that the townspeople DO come together and cooperate with each other; the town government does hold together, and the town leaders do lead. The town does not devolve into "every person for themselves" anarchy, as so many other post-apocalyptic visions presume. It is also optimistic in that the townspeople do actually win in a horrific battle against a nightmarish roving gang. It is optimistic in that the protagonist and the other characters do succeed in the struggle to maintain their humanity and deepest held values.

So, read the book. But then what?
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1,331 of 1,585 people found the following review helpful By Mark W. Palmer on April 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because I have been flogging the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack scenario to friends and relatives since early 2008, when it became apparent to me that the U.S. had lost the will to halt nuclear proliferation among terror-sponsoring states. I reasoned that a stateless actor or an apocalyptic regime might calculate that an EMP attack would actually create more casualties and more economic damage than a direct strike on any one city. An EMP attack also has the advantage of being the equivalent of hitting the broad side of a barn. Just get the nuke up a couple hundred klicks and go "boom," rather than trust your missile's guidance to hit an urban center from offshore or (alternatively) risk detection of a smuggled warhead. Lastly, the straightforward atomic bomb designs a nascent nuclear state is likely to deploy don't make as big a crater as a sophisticated "hydrogen" (fusion) bomb does, but they're already very effective at creating EMP.

Given the above, one would imagine I'd be among the vanguard in extolling this novel. For reasons great and small though, I was ultimately disappointed. In my opinion the story's biggest flaw is its implicit assumption that EMP would render irrevocably inoperable any integrated-circuit based device -- i.e., anything more advanced than wires, coils, and vacuum tubes -- and by extension anything that depended upon such devices (your modern automobile, for example). My readings so far of the findings of the ongoing EMP Commission (in particular April 2008, see suggest that this is a gross exaggeration.
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