Book Review: One Second After

Book Review: One Second After

One Second After by William R. Forstchen is written as a realistic second-person (kind of halfway between a first person and third person viewpoint) account of the events occurring for the first year after an E.M.P (electromagnetic pulse) weapon is detonated over the USA. An E.M.P weapon is a weapon that was accidentally discovered during the testing of nuclear weapons in 1945, however it was somewhat expected and the equipment was shielded in anticipation. It wasn’t until the real computer revolution that it was looked at as an effective weapon, even more devastating in ways then the nuclear explosion itself. An E.M.P doesn’t kill anyone directly but the sub-sequential destruction of electronics due to the massive surge of power would effectively throw the target area back 100+ years technologically.

People lived decently 100 years ago, however they knew a lot more about how to do things without electricity, running water, gas for stoves or motor vehicles and they were equipped to live with those limitations. It would be much worse considering that there are massive populations gathered in such a condensed area within our cities. Most homes have little to no self-sufficiency such as gardens or livestock because it’s all shipped in from halfway across the country. If you take all the food from all the grocery stores in your community you would have about 3-10 days worth of food per person in your city. For many situations flood, tornado or earthquake that would probably be enough to pull through but in the case of an E.M.P the effected area would be massive 3 E.M.Ps detonated in the upper atmosphere above the USA would destroy every computer and electronic in the country. Refrigerators fail shipping lanes are blocked and that’s only a problem if you can get a vehicle running and have fuel to keep it going. It would effectively take about 240,000 nuclear bombs to blanket the USA of-course that would be instant where as an E.M.P would be a more prolonged suffering. The expected death-toll from an E.M.P is mostly due to people turning on each-other for food and the basic necessities of life some rough estimates assuming a large scale E.M.P strike have the casualties at 90-95% of the population.

This book walks you through the events and struggles that would possibly face survivors of an E.M.P strike. It is very engaging and it pulls you into the life John Matherson a retired veteran and current professor at the local college. This book was written more as a cautionary tale then as a survival guide but there is plenty to learn from it. It shows the weakness of the modern industrial economy and how easily if one thing fails it can have a chain reaction; if there’s a gas shortage then food isn’t able to be transported from 100’s or 1000’s of miles away to the cities, if the power fails then produce and meats go bad. It’s not meant to be scary but it does help show the shortcomings of living so dependently on a system that is surprisingly fragile. People have seen this happen on smaller scales in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina a lot of people died because rescue workers weren’t able to get to them in time, many more got sick from the garbage and decay around them. They had ample warning that the hurricane was coming they just thought that nothing could happen to them since there was a system in-place to help them, well sometimes you have to depend on yourself first and have others’ help as a backup plan.

All-in-all I believe One Second After an excellent book and I suppose why it was a NYT best seller definitely go check it out if you are so inclined.

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Creator of The Smarter Society.

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