Friday, February 3, 2012

One Second After - Book Review

I would recommend reading One Second After, by William R. Forstchen. It is a fantastic, and depending on your beliefs, likely scenario.

This book takes you through the trials of retired Army Colonel and history professor John Matheson, as he tries to care for his two daughters (one of whom is diabetic) after an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack takes down the power grid throughout the United States, and disables any modern device that relies on electronics. This includes vehicles, both the land line and cellular phone systems, and backup generators. It takes over a year before they are able to receive help from outside their town and one other nearby town.

In the book the lack of preparation by government officials for a disaster of this magnitude is evident. At first, no one knows what it is and expects the power to come back on. There's a party atmosphere as all the perishable meats are cooked. Then the grocery stores get cleaned out and looted and people get hurt. The residents begin to realize that the power is not coming back and they don't know when they'll receive help. The local elected officials - with the help of John - take control of the city's resources and begin security and rationing. Unfortunately, the city is located close to an interstate, and the people stranded there are unable to leave and are an extra tax on the city's resources. Because there is no money, bartering is used, but that only lasts until the supplies run out.

There is no electricity in the hospitals or nursing homes, either. The patients and residents are the first to die. There are no resources to treat medical problems or chronic diseases, and infections run rampant. Food runs out and people get desperate. I suppose I would, too, if I hadn't eaten in months. In addition to all that, there are threats to the what little welfare and safety the residents do have via gangs of cannibalistic thugs who are well-armed and well-fed.

The story takes you through the decimation and survival of the residents of this small town. If you don't shed a tear at least once, there might be something wrong with you.

But I only give this a 3.5. This book is only written from the point of view of someone who is in a position of authority. While the officials in this town seem to do everything right as best they can, at best it's theory. There's no real fighting between people, which I would expect when individuals get hungry and cranky. Everything seems to be carried out calmly (relevant to the situation), and it takes away from a sense of realism and good storytelling. It also is not the most well-written book I've ever read, and is slow and too sentimental at times. 

But it is definitely interesting, and I would recommend buying, borrowing, or checking it out from your local library. Why? Well, this is an actual possibility, even if it doesn't happen on this scale. Solar flares can affect satellites and also the power grid. (Not to mention ice storms in the winter that knock out power for weeks.)  But unlike ice storms, a solar flare that is powerful enough to affect our grid is powerful enough to affect other electronics like the computers in our cars. We may get the power back after a few days but our mechanics will be backed up for weeks. This book will give you food for thought. (No pun intended.) 

Happy Friday everyone!!

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