Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Once Second After by William A. Forstchen

I learned about William Forstchen's novel One Second After while listening to the Neal Boortz Radio Show, and the discussion about EMPs (Electro Magnetic Pulse) on which the story’s plot is based caught my interest.

An EMP is a burst of energy that is a byproduct of a nuclear detonation high up in the atmosphere. It will wreck the vast majority of unshielded electronic devices, from a microwave oven and transistor radio to the computerized systems in the modern car and those that monitor and control a nation’s power grid.

The main focus of the story is the aftermath of a surprise attack from container ship-launched ICBMs whose nuclear warheads detonate above the USA.

One Second After chronicles the life and death struggles a local community and its individual citizens face as transportation, communication and emergency services come to a sudden, unexpected halt. It is a realistic scenario that doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Consider hospitals and nursing homes suddenly losing power. What happens to the patients? What about aircraft aloft whose electronic controls are instantly fried? How will crops get harvested, let alone transported to where the starving populations are? And those questions manage to only scratch the surface.

Consistent with the grim but truthful results of such an attack, there’s no immediate knowledge of what happened and no government emergency personnel and supplies to the rescue. Is it everybody for himself? How will individuals, families and communities face up to this crisis?

I know—a lot of questions, but Forstchen’s novel addresses those I put forth and more through his novel’s multiple, simultaneous EMP detonation scenario. And I don’t want to give away any answers that might lessen the enjoyment of your read. I personally had trouble putting it down.

One Second After is classified as a science fiction novel, but in actuality the threat is quite real. It could happen and we, especially in the West, are vulnerable.


  1. Sounds like a good book. Seems like human distruction is the main theme these days, in books and movies.

  2. Destruction and suffering caused by humans is a common theme. This novel, I think, is a notch above the others in story and how it hits home to the average reader. Gets them to think how fragile life and modern society actually is.