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One Second After (A John Matherson Novel) Mass Market Paperback – April 26, 2011
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This book has me rethinking my reluctance to own firearms and I’m looking at survival websites for freeze dried foods. You can never be too careful!
Okay, I am momentarily depressed, but I’m better for the knowledge...I think. I hold North Korea responsible for bringing EMP (electromagnetic pulse) to the forefront of my life. EMP is what happens when a nuclear bomb is detonated high in the atmosphere...and that dirty little “Rocket man” from North Korea has threaten just that. But it’s not just EMP, our electric GRID is vulnerable to a cyber-attack ...no news here, but those cyber attacks are happening everyday, evidenced by the recent attack on Equifax, where half of our population in the United States had their personal data stolen.
Plain and simple, if we have an EMP attack, or there is a cyber attack on our GRID everything stops...the electric goes out, water and fuel can’t be pumped, no ATM’s... You know, kind of like Puerto Rico. With an EMP, cars and everything electronic stop working too, but here’s the difference...it only takes ONE nuclear blast, 25 miles or more above Kansas for the effect of an EMP to take our entire nation back to the 1800’s. That’s a fact. The only good thing about an EMP, is there is no fall-out.
This book, “One Second After” is not a fairytale novel, it is a novel about the experience of people in a small town in North Carolina when the power goes out. It is a book that’s has been talked about on the floor of the United States Congress. High ranking government people and nine scientists in the know have stated, “It’s not if, but when this happens.” Our government does not have a emergency preparedness plan for a disaster of this magnitude. Think about it, what if something like what has happened to Puerto Rico happened nationwide? We’re going to be on our own.
I read this book, because I wanted to know what would happen if any major catastrophe happened here in the United States. I wanted to know what would happen to people, how they would behave, I wanted pointers on how people survived, how we would overcome something bad like this. Well, I found out and it’s grim.
This was the most emotionally difficult book I have ever read. I finished it in two days, just to be rid of it. I found it ironic, that as I read the book, I watched news reports of the suffering in Puerto Rico and the only difference was, the Puerto Rican’s have the United States coming to their aide.
I’m not going to say that everyone should read this book, because I think some people wouldn’t be able to take it, but I needed to read it, because I’m the kind of person, that wants to feel I have some control in our chaotic world, even though I may be sadly mistaken.
I took notes on the pages as I read this book...things I didn’t know. At times I cried and those that know me, know I don’t cry easy. I cried, because what I was reading was too real and fit in with what I knew to be true. Yes, this novel left me numb, saddened, but also more determined to be as prepared as I can to protect my family, neighbors and friends. We all need a plan.
This past Wednesday, when I gave a presentation on EMP at the request of several Rotarians, another Rotarian asked if I had ever read “A Second After.” I hadn’t. The reason that I was asked to present was that I had studied EMP back in to 70’s when I was pursuing both a degree in Physics and a degree in Electrical Engineering, both of which I successfully completed. Throughout my career I brushed shoulders, so to speak, with classified documents on EMP but never directly involved. As a Laboratory Commander, I definitely knew of the subject. Then I became aware of the Congressional EMP Commission and its demise. I made some comments about this to friends which lead to my invite to speak at a few venues.
What Professor William Forstchen has written has struck extremely close to home for me. Not having read his book, but advising local leaders on what they should think about should there be an EMP event, I found that he addresses the exact same items as immediate concerns: Water, Food, Heat and Hygiene! He adds another one, Security.
The scenario that he presents is exactly the scenario that I anticipated in my presentations:
Initially we would have an outage of power. No one would know why because we would have no communications. And we would not know for a long time afterwards. Everyone would expect power to be restored in the near future. But as time progressed and power wasn’t restored, we would get all sorts of crazy ideas being proposed. How well we then survived would depend on how well local leaders reacted and how well they began to address the pressing problems. The local leaders would underestimate the needs and not take the actions needed immediately. Every community would have its own local problems that would need to be addressed.
This book presupposes a “come as you are party” where many people are reduced to their vilest emotions. It would take good leaders if anyone was to survive. In this book, 20% survive which seems about right for a small town that had taken no prior preparation.
I believe Professor Forstchen has correctly thought through the scenario although I might quibble about some details. People who are on life maintenance drugs and medical devices will probably die, some immediately because devices fail without electricity and some in the longer term as drugs are depleted. Then as food is depleted, there will be numerous diseases that we in America have not seen since the 19th Century. If the leaders are not effective early enough, there will be civil disturbances.Martial law will be necessary. Food rationing will be essential. And rations will decrease over time as the town gets nearer and nearer to a no food condition. There will moral qualms as very distasteful solutions need to be applied. There will be disparate attempts to get around the food rationing, the legal and medical systems. In the end, a few will survive if the leaders are effective even at the cost of their own lives.
But it does not have to be this way. There are things we can do at all levels of government to minimize the effects an EMP attack would have. We can harden our electrical grid and the devices fed from it. We can think about Water, Food, Heat, Hygiene and Security at this time and make provisions for survival. We have the resources now! But if we keep avoiding the problem, I fear the future will catch us unprotected.
As CAPT Bill Sanders of the US Navy, who apparently has seen the same documents I have stated in the Afterward of this book,
“I wish my imagination would have allowed me to just sit back and enjoy my friend Bill Forstchen’s novel One Second After as another science fiction story, but I could not. It was an emotional and gut-wrenching read—because it could actually happen.”
For all that, the book gets four stars for the very frightening plot and unflinching look at a possible worst case EMP attack scenario. I didn't like the writing or the characters enough that I want to read the remaining novels in the series, but as a stand-alone cautionary tale, this is a pretty good book.