Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: One Second After by William R. Forstchen

One Second After by William R. Forstchen ***** 352 pages Forge books

I admit I almost passed on this book, since being the far left dude that I am I am not in the habit of reading books with a forward by Newt Gingrich. I still think Newt is a far right wing windbag, but we now have something to agree on – This is a must read book.

Fortschen is a military historian whose previous books include a series of historical military novels with the former speaker and a series of Wing Commander novels. I get the feeling the that he publisher considered this novel to be a bit higher class than his past work, and I have to say it is a novel of very high quality. It is a fantastic end of the world novel. I love this sub-genre, the author wasn’t shy about telling us up front that he wanted to make this book a entry in a pantheon that includes classics like On the Beach and Alas Babylon. I personally would add John Brunner’s classic “The Sheep Look Up” Or Norman Spinrad’s “Greenhouse Summer.”

Like those novels One Second After is a warning novel, that is what I call this sub-genre, It helps to have strong characters and settings but the point of these novels is dramatize a possible coming crisis. There are plenty of nuclear war novels, climate change and pollution.

Forstchen sets the novel in his North Carolina home town and based the main character thinly after himself. I can’t say how much of the town and the characters are based on real life but this novel feels extremely honest. They feel real.

The main character is a widower trying to raise two teenage daughters, including one with diabetes . the conflict comes when suddenly Civilization dies. It comes not in a Nuclear blast/winter, but a high atmosphere blast that causes an EMP (look it up if you have never heard of it). The aftermath leaves the skeleton of society, but instantly destroys all electronics.

Cars, Refrigeration, medicine production, hospitals and modern mass communication are instantly gone. The novel follows the year after the death of electronics and the results is a series of horrible events and a struggle for a spoiled and overpopulated nation to survive.

The action of the novel is well written, the characters are so strong that several moments are genuine tear-jerkers. It also has the most tragic use of a dog character since Matheson’s I Am Legend. This novel also manages to unintentionally make a very similar point to John Shirley’s Everything is Broken, while also warning people to a new danger. I think you should read this book, and maybe start a garden.

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