A while back, before I started writing this blog, I listened to audio-books on a more regular basis than I currently do. One such book that impressed me deeply was William R. Forstchen’s One Second After, a speculative fiction story about the events in a small town in North Carolina after the United States is hit by an Electromagnetic Pulse attack when nukes are detonated above the country. In the blink of an eye, the town in question loses all use of electronic devices and services, and the results is a rapid spiral into a new Dark Ages for the citizens. Think about it, all of the things we now take for granted; something as simple as refrigeration can have a giant impact on life, especially when there are medicines such as insulin that require being kept cool lest they break down and lose their potency very quickly.
One Second After looks at the events of the town for a year following the EMP attack and I recommend that you read that book before you read One Year After, the book that I will discuss in this post.
Beginning on Day 730 following the EMP attack on the U.S., the town of Black Mountain continues to survive and try to rebuild their infrastructure and provide for their own defense. The only threat they face is from the other side of the mountain in the form of a group they call “reivers” that are more of a pest than a real threat. One morning, the community appointed authority, John Matherson is informed that many of the people of the town are to be drafted into service of an army that is supposed to restore peace to the major cities in the U.S. That have been taken over by various entities that hold power through intimidation and mayhem. One of the people that receives a draft notice is Matherson’s own daughter. When he looks further into what is happening, he learns that the draft will leave the town virtually undefended and vulnerable.
Matherson heads to meet the government official in Asheville, Dale Fredericks, who assures Matherson that the protection of his town will be provided for by the government while the citizens of Black Mountain are away. Furthermore, Matherson himself is offered a position in the new government thanks to his military background, and what his leadership has established in Black Mountain. However, Matherson is not comfortable with what he is told, and when Fredericks’ troops attack the reivers, Matherson determines that he cannot condone the injustice of the new government, and especially of the local authorities in Asheville.
The main character of the story is John Matherson. Before The Day, He was a college history professor and former colonel in the Army who served in the Gulf War. He understand both history and war and uses his knowledge to put the people around him to their best use. As far as how he governs, he holds the Constitution in the highest regard and will not perform or allow to anyone to perform actions that go outside of the letter of the law. Matherson is a level-headed man with a lot of common sense and has to be admired for his restraint when he finds himself in a position to advance his personal agenda over the good of the community (In One Second After, he is very tempted to take something he needs desperately).
The main antagonist in this story is Dale Fredericks, a bureaucrat who has been given way too much power and has very little oversight. Instead of leading, he surrounds himself with thugs and tries to make insincere deals that he most likely has no intention of following through with. He comes across in the beginning as someone that can be dealt with fairly, but it isn’t long before we learn that he is not to be trusted, and he has no regard for the letter or the spirit of law.
This is a very scary saga that is presented in a very realistic and believable manner that is very grim and disturbing. The possibility of an EMP attack is far too plausible for comfort and nothing has been done to protect what we have come to take for granted. The events of the two books I mention are not fun to contemplate and I had a hard time thinking about what I read as I contemplated what might happen to my own family and friends. Perhaps this is part of the message that the author is trying to convey in his prose after all, he is an educator as well as one fine teller of stories. It is my sincere hope that he is not prophetic as well.
I give my highest recommendations to read both One Second After and One Year After, however, as I mentioned at the beginning, be sure to read them in that order. This is serious post-apocalyptic fiction that reads all too close to reality for comfort; it is not for those that are given to nightmares or are easily disturbed.
Well, there it is…