Review ♦ One Second After

One Second After

New York Times Bestselling Author William R. Forstchen Tells A Story That Might Be All Too Terrifyingly Real. A story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war that sends our nation back to the Dark Ages. A war lost because of a terrifying weapon, an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) … that may already be in the hands of our enemies. Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read. It has been discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a realistic look at EMPs and their awesome ability to send catastrophic shockwaves throughout the United States, literally within seconds. EMPs are a weapon that The Wall Street Journal warned could shatter our nation. In the tradition of On The Beach, Fail-Safe, and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future … and our end.

Book Title: One Second After Type: Trade Paperback 350 pages
Author: William R. Forstchen Publication Date: November 2009
Publisher: Forge ISBN: 978-0-7653-2725-3
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction Purchase: Amazon

My Thoughts  
One Second After is very much the type of book that I normally enjoy – a fictional yet realistic story populated by a group of people who are trying to survive after a cataclysmic disaster has changed the way in which society itself works, or for that matter something that breaks down society from a worldwide organization into small branches of separate societies. In this book, the disaster is caused by an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse). EMPs will basically fry anything that has an electronic component, and so the survivors in this book are left without anything that requires electric power to run. The fact that EMPs are a possibility in our own reality makes this idea really scary. Living in the Maritimes I have had some experience with weather-related power outages, some lasting as long as 2 weeks, so the idea of losing all power indefinitely was terrifying to me. For all these reasons, I was sure that One Second After would be a winner of a book for me. However, sometimes when things look perfect you discover the exact opposite.

My main complaint, and the first thing that I noticed at about 25 pages in, was that the structure of this book was very disjointed. There is the main story containing narration, dialogue, all the normal things in fiction. Scattered amongst this was the scientific and technological explanations and hypotheses concerning EMPs. Both of these things were necessary to make the story work, because a reader would need to know the information in order to fully understand what was going on. However the problem that arose for me was that the style and tone changed drastically when the two met. For example, a group of town people would be having a meeting to discuss what had happened, why there was no power – casual conversations between peers – but then one of the people would begin explaining to the group the way in which EMPs worked. Automatically the tone shifted and I personally felt that the story ended and was replaced by a blurb (or several pages) of straight non-fiction. This shift was jarring to the flow and also made it seem as though the explaining person had abruptly jumped out of character. Once I realized that this was going to happen quite often, my interest in the book itself diminished.

I honestly hate to seem like I am picking apart any book, but the other problems I had also made this a less than enjoyable read. However my reviews are based on honesty, so here are a few of the more prominent complaints I had. The editing of the book itself was poor, with sentences that felt very unnatural, especially within the dialogue. It felt to me as though no one had read through the book after the first draft. Also from my point of view as a female, the women in this book were not portrayed quite as realistically or positively as I’d hoped. The mayor and some women in the put-together militia were female but they never seemed to be important to the plot. The main females fell into the roles of sick daughter, dead wife, old mother-in-law and possible love interest. Now would be a good time to mention that the story contained a whole whack of formulaic characters and relational situations. My one last complaint – and right upfront I will say it has nothing to do with my being a Canadian – it was seriously annoying that whenever something negative happened or was mentioned, a character would say something about being an American. Certain phrases like “but we’re Americans” or “but this is America” repeatedly being used got tiresome, it began to feel as though the author wanted readers to believe that the United States as presented in this book was beyond perfection and incapable of any wrongdoing. Apologies to all Americans out there, this isn’t meant as a personal criticism of your country – it would have bothered me just as much had the story been set in Canada or England or any other country in the world.

So there you have it, just a few of my thoughts about One Second After. Makes me feel like a cranky old curmudgeon but honestly I had high hopes for this book and it just fell flat for me on all levels. The description of this book, as well as the introduction mentioned the books On The Beach and Alas, Babylon – both books that share similar themes – my recommendation would be to skip this one and check out either of those instead. Then again, everyone’s taste is different and One Second After might be the perfect fit for you.

About The Author
William R. Forstchen has a Ph.D. from Purdue University with specializations in military history and the history of technology. He is a faculty fellow and professor of history at Montreat College. Forstchen is the author of more than forty books, including the New York Times bestselling novels Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor (co-authored with Newt Gingrich), as well as the award-winning young adult novel We Look Like Men Of War. He has also written numerous short stories and articles about military history and military technology. His interests include archaeology; he owns and flies an original WWII “recon bird.” Dr. Forstchen resides near Asheville, North Carolina, with his teenage daughter, Meghan, and their small pack of golden retrievers and yellow labs.

Other Reviews

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


bermudaonion said...

I wonder if the book has really been discussed in Congress or if that is hype. I don't think this book is for me.

Lenore said...

My dad gave me this as a gift because he REALLY liked it, but yours is the first blog review I've seen of it. Hmmm...

Zibilee said...

It sounds as though the idea was very interesting, but the execution very poor. These types of books are not usually my thing, but I might have been swayed if you had given it a thumbs up. Too bad this book was such a disappointment, I am sure now that I won't be picking this one up.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Rob said...

I noticed the female notations as well. All the main characters had finality (Tom, Charles, the Doc, even the dogs) but - unless I missed something - the mayor's fate is never mentioned. After the battle, the author focuses primarily on the female casualties (one draped over Washington, one with fatal stomach wound, other shot multiple times who John comforts, singer on operating table, etc). The men who died were somewhat thrown out casually (Ben, Jeremiah, etc).

What struck me was the "lesson" at the end - the town did comparatively well because it "stuck together." Yet you read very little evidence of that. John never takes anyone into his home, outside his two daughters and in-laws. No neighbors. No young children. He interacts with others yet never makes a real offer of assistance.

Late in the book you read of looters killing a family - two adults, two children. Is there not strength in numbers? Would there not have been more pooling of resources, strength in numbers, under one roof?

I live in the mountains of NC, and I can't imagine - three months after such an incident with threats of looting and violence - that a "local" family would be alone to itself like that.

Diamond Nicole said...

I personally thought the book was quite good. I just finished reading it about thirty minutes ago. This review, in my opinion, is complete and utter disgrace in regard to the novel. For one, the sentences in the dialogue were disjointed because people in America talk that way. Dialect is extremely important in making a novel seem realistic. The other point regarding the roles of women is simply due to the fact that the author is a male. Also, men are more apt to do things for the community during a time of crisis. I too, am a woman who read the novel. Also, every time that a quote such as "but this is America" was made, is simply done because that's the way that Americans feel. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are not a third world country and we do not witness these atrocities in our own backyards. The use of these sayings are perfectly in line with the way America feels. America feels indestructible, even though, clearly, we are not. The statement made that America in the novel feels too perfect is true becuase that's the way it feels. If a person wishes not to read this book only due to the fact that this review says that women are degraded, America is glorified, and the dialogue is disjointed, will be missing out on a great piece that holds some truth and possibilities. The novel over all, was amazingly written. I recommend this novel for any mature reader, only due to graphic content.

Rick said...

Very good review. Thank you. I just finished reading this book and found it to be a wonderful story, terribly told.

The scenario the author envisions is well thought out and probably an extremely accurate prediction. However he seems so incapable of weaving a tale to engross the reader that his only resources were stock characters, poorly defined and near constant references to films, wars or battles, and periods in history. He relies on these to convey an image or emotion to the reader - to telegraph what we should imagine or feel at a given point - The devastation was like something from World War II. The starvation was like what must have been experienced during the Civil War. The hoard was like something from the middle ages. It reminded him of Dr Strangelove. It reminded him of On The Beach. It reminded him, yet again, of a movie he had seen.