One Second After is the definitive work among post-apocalyptic fiction, bar none. If you are into preparedness then you have likely heard of this book even if you have not read it. I actually read it years ago, but decided to review it now as it remains a definitive work. Of all the “prepper” fiction out there, this book focuses on a truly worst-case scenario, though it is one that is in the realm of possibility. Scary thought, indeed. One Second After will make you think deeply, if nothing else.
Author William Forstchen was heavily involved in the congressional report on the threat of EMP (Electrical Magnetic Pulse) and he brings his understanding of this subject to his writing in One Second After. EMP is a consistent theme in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and Forstchen’s book is indeed the best know, and most influential, of the breed. The book is well-researched, and certainly well written, and it is epically tragic. Lessons on preparedness and the fragility of civilization are well presented in this book, despite being a work of fiction.
Forstchen touches on many aspects of mass scale emergency and social disruption. The loss of electricity due to the EMP attack that kicks off the events in this story is a disaster of cataclysmic proportions. One aspect of this threat that the book addresses well is that everything that, literally, powers our modern lives depends on the electric grid. Forstchen’s scenario even sees the termination of vehicle operation, as modern cars rely on computers. This escalates the blow to the nation, as the ability to ship goods and supplies screeches to a halt.
The picture painted by One Second After is incredibly depressing. Starvation is the foremost threat facing the masses, but the loss of modern medicine and medical treatment is also of grave concern. The book also tackles the emergence of diabolical leaders who emerge, forming roving groups of violent and barbaric followers. This would be hardly surprising in such a circumstance.
One Second After is not a light read, and it will leave you depressed. However, if you are serious about preparedness you owe it to yourself to read this stand out work among such fiction. While this novel focuses on a worst-case scenario, thinking about such things makes anything less that much easier to fathom and prepare for. Highly recommended reading.