Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"One Second After": A Book Report

One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

A not-particularly-well written novel about the effects of an EMP on a small town in North Carolina and the surrounding countryside. Characters are flat and boring, and are generally used as delivery pieces for information:  the police chief talks about martial law, the doctor talks about health and disease, and the protagonist -- a history professor -- is a thinly veiled author expy.

We are continually beaten about the head regarding how awful an EMP attack is, and how woefully unprepared the USA is for one, despite all the other post-9/11 terrorist drills, and yet there are no mentions of Farraday Cages at all.

One of the author's -- excuse me, I meant protagonist's -- children is a 12 year old daughter with Type 1 diabetes. It ends as badly as you think it might for her, despite the fact that the novel is set in a rural community, with repeated mentions of both veterinarians, cattle,and pig farms.  I find it implausible that the town of Black Mountain was able to string up old 1920s style telephones, but no one thought to research getting insulin from livestock like the way it was done, oh, up until the 1980s.

The author's other daughter is a 17 year old, who stupidly gets pregnant during the famine-and-dieoff portion of the novel, because that makes sense. Then her boyfriend dies in the defense of the town against Mad Max style raiders, and because the author was also a colonel in the military who assigned the boy to that station, he pledges to raise his bastard grandchild out of a sense of guilt. Because a risky pregnancy during a famine is fine, but taking an interest in who your child is fucking beforehand is out of the question.

I threw the novel across the room when the author's mother-in-law suggests that he kill his dead daughter's dog so that his stupid pregnant daughter can have protein so that the baby can be brought to term.

It's slightly cheerier than The Road, but not by much, and that book was also stupid and depressing.

Do not read, unless you like dark endings, idiot characters, or being lectured.


  1. I didn't think it was as bad as that, but it could have been my fond memories of the author's Wing Commander books from the early 90s coloring my perception.

    I did think he took Murphy's law to the extreme, though. Just because everything can go wrong, doesn't mean everything will.

  2. This is America, I feel like I'm always being lectured. Usually about what an evil person I am. Pity I can't throw the country across the room in disgust.

  3. It's an "EMPs are bad, mmkay?" lecture wrapped in postholocaust grimdark and set in the author's hometown, where the author is the main character of the book.

  4. I didn't get halfway through. Fortunately, I paid at most a dollar for it at a thrift store.

  5. I'd say you barely got your money's worth.

  6. I don't care that it wasn't written in the manner one expecteth, as i see that being a failure on proof readers, editors etc mostly. I don't want to have to suffer through Shakespearean English as it is the 'correct' way to write a tale.
    Setting it where he lived. Great, write what you know. Makes researching a scene easier if you walk down the street and look at it.
    The predictable from chapter 1 death? I admit, i was almost convinced it wasn't going to happen by the point it did. (Damn allergies.)
    Eating the dog was no big deal,(sad, yes) people have and will do worse. They just found the remains of a 14yr old girl that the colonists dug up (she was dead and buried already) and ate they were so desperate.
    I looked up insulin production. Besides the fridge, centrifuge, and liquid chromatography machine. A steady supply of pancreases, grinding them up and the acids and other chemicals to get the insulin out. Finding a lab tech who happened to do that 30 years ago living in Black Mountain would be so unlikely its beyond consideration. You don't just go up to a cow with a syringe and extract some pancreas juice then inject it into someone.
    Black mountain is, as the author said, in a lousy spot. Too many people, too few resources. Plus bad geographically. If you killed a cow per day, the people of Black Mountain would get 1oz of meat each (maybe). A farm is not a good source of food, much like 1 cherry will not make much of a pie.

  7. Also. The Road, was one of the crappiest movies ever. I couldn't believe i wanted the boy dead from about the second scene he was in so i read the book this winter. Yep, it sucked. I wanted the boy dead more than ever.

  8. Thanks for the warning, now I'll skip it. Haven't watched/read The Road, I've got enough depression in my life already. :D


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