“One Second After” by William R. Forstchen

About the book
John Matherson is a professor of history, and a retired U.S. Army Colonel, whoe lives in Black Mountain, NC with his two daughters and his two golden retrievers. When the country is hit by a powerful EMP, chaos soon follows. John struggles to keep his family, and his community, safe through the ensuing  violence, starvation, sickness and depravation.

My thoughts
Man oh man, I’m not sure where to start. Rarely have I felt so torn over a book. Ok, well, I bought it because I love Post-apocalypse novels, and that’s exactly what this is.

It is raw and brutal and unflinching in its description of a country and its people as they descend a hopeless spiral of degradation, disease and death. So far so good. Those aspects of the book strike me as thoroughly honest.

It’s also well-written, well-paced and the characters are vividly depicted. If anything, sometimes I can’t tell if it’s the author I’m irritated with, or the main character; he spouts male chauvinist bullshit about women spending their huband’s money, dislikes his daughter’s boyfriend to the point of whippin out a shotgun (despite having known and liked the boy for years), and any number of other irritating details. If John Matherson is meant to be that vaguely annoying person, well then, the author did a fine job of portraying him that way. He has also managed to create the image of a man who is deeply human. He wants to save his daughters and when it comes down to it he will sacrifice anyone and anything to do so.

Thinking back about the book, though, and the general tone of it, there are things I can’t help but be bothered by.

There is a pervading sense that the only real way to resolve problems is by military means. The minute problems arise a military dictatorship is instated. Problems are solved by gun. Now I don’t doubt it would often be that way, should the scenario arise. I just don’t want to celebrate it.

It is also, at times, a little cliché on the verge of cheesy. I don’t know how many times some young patriot stands up in a crowd to sing The Star Spangled Banner or some other salutary hymn. The main character is all misty-eyed nostalgia for a country I’m not sure ever actually existed outside of the minds of white, male history professors.

Halfway through this book I was so bothered by the many annoying details that I vowed never to read another book by William R. Forstchen in my life. Now that I’m done I’m less certain. I hear he’s coming out with a sequel (One Year After). Chances are I will buy it. There’s a part of me that wants to know what happens next.

If you think that America is nothing but trimmed lawns and neat New England porches with perfectly satisfied, apron-wearing housewives and 17-year old children who have never in their lives even considered having sex, if you think the military is the greatest freedom movement in the world, and nothing about life has really improved since the 50’s, chances are this book will go down like pancakes and butter. If you have a more complex view of the world you might encounter one or two things you disagree with. I suggest you read it either way. Because any way you look at it, One Second After is important. It provides a very realistic scenario for what most industrialized countries would face if hit by an EMP. It also describes the reality of war in all its terrible, grisly horror. I give it . If the e-book was of better technical quality I might consider adding another half point.

About the author
William R. Forstchen was born in 1950 in Millburn, New Jersey. He is an American historian and author who began publishing in 1978 as a contributor to Boys’ Life. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina, where he lives with his daughter Meghan and their two dogs. He received his doctorate from Purdue University, with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War and the History of Technology.

Forstchen is the author of more than forty books, including the award winning We Look Like Men of War, a young adult novel about an African-American regiment that fought at the Battle of the Crater, which is based upon his doctoral dissertation, The 28th USCTs: Indiana’s African-Americans go to War, 1863–1865

Forstchen’s writing efforts have, in recent years, shifted towards historical fiction, non fiction and technological issues. In 2002 he started the “Gettysburg” trilogy with Newt Gingrich.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_R._Forstchen, http://www.forstchen.com/

Buy it
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