Book Review: One Second After By William R. Forstchen

I just finished William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After” and it is an eye opener. Like “Into the Forest” or “Gift Upon the Shore”, it paints a picture of the U.S. after a disaster strips away the thin veneer we call civilization over the whole of America. “Into the Forest” is written mostly from an individual perspective about coping with the loss of civilization and “Gift Upon the Shore” from a small group’s ability to cope with disaster. “One Second After” is about a small town just outside of Ashville, North Carolina and how it deals with the aftermath of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S.

An EMP is generated by the exploding of a nuclear weapon 250 to 300 miles over the U.S. The electric pulse that is generated fries the computer innards that run our society. The electronics in our modern cars is fried, our financial system, that is primarily electronic, is fried along with anything in the way of energy production, food production, and hospital care. We suddenly living in a country as it was 400 to 500 years ago.

Forstchen writes a page turner that pulls at your heart. His city must confront ways to handle the sick and their medical needs. It must confront lawlessness and summary justice, food shortages with no help from the outside. In fact with all communications cut off, thwere isnooutside any longer.

In an EMP attack we may lose 10% of our population in the first week. Just imagine the plight of commercial aircraft. On an average day there are 3,000 planes flying over the U.S. and an average of 200 people on each plane. With no way to steer, six hundred thousand people would be lost in an instant as the planes fall from the sky.

Forstchen thinks that in the farm belt we could lose up to 60% of the citizens. In the big cities after a year only 10% would be left.

In 2004, a reprt was issued called the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The report is 62 pages long and outlines the threat we face and seems to focus on stopping an attack rather than hardening our electronics to withstand such an attack. It is dry reading. I recommend “One Second After” and when you are done, I ask you to contact Congress about protecting the nation.

Or you can start accumulating arms and ammo to protect yourself and to forage for food. You can start setting up a food larder. You can acquire knowledge to make your self useful in the new society, like how to generate electricity, steam engine technology, animal husbandry and horticulture.

2 Responses to “Book Review: One Second After By William R. Forstchen”

  1. ” ask you to contact Congress about protecting the nation.”

    Not much chance of that. Protecting, I mean. Probably as little chance as getting them to even think about it. Much better to spend our intellectual and financial capital protecting us from the horrors of global warming.

    It’s not only rogue nations (not too many of whom have the tecnological ability to deploy one of those EMP bombs), but our nearest big neighbor, the Sun.

    Do a web search for ‘carrington event’. It was Sept 1, 1859. The Sun blew a tremendous flare.

    “Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight..

    Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire.”

    Luckily, in 1859, we weren’t as dependent on electronics as we are today.

    There was another big solar storm in 1989. They aren’t exceedingly rare.

    This appears to be a pretty good story, from New Scientist:

    “Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe”

    Just a few things to consider: no radio, no TV, no ATMs, no internet, all your savings and investments locked up in computers that can’t talk, no gas stations, no traffic lights, …

    It would be pretty bleak. Like setting everybody’s wayback machine to 1870. Or maybe worse, to 1860.

  2. Although I have not read the book, I have to cast serious doubt on Dr Forstchen’s ideas. He wrote an article in Silver Bear Cafe about the idea that a single bomb could destroy most electrical and electronic services across the USA. I did a scratch calculations that proves that even for a large bomb the average energy density across the contiguous states would be very low, the density on the east and west coast where most people live would of course be far lower still. I also went through the article and picked up a string of errors that anyone who had researched the issue thoroughly, let alone spent four years doing so, should have known. Both of these articles can be found on my blog.

    It is not professional journalism or even thorough science, I am sure there are some holes that can be picked in my reasoning, but it shows that the whole idea Dr Forstchen is trying to put across is not well-established.

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