One Second After is a book that has changed my family’s life.
Maybe after that glowing headline, you don’t even need to read the review to know what I think. But I have to say, of all the apocalyptic books that I’ve read throughout my life, this one changed it.
What is the Book About?
This book is an apocalyptic thriller where a small town goes into the darkness with no power supply after suffering the aftermath of nuclear bombs and explosions. This terrifying experience forces people to learn basic survival skills, with no access to phones, airplanes, or cars. A history professor uses his years of expertise to understand what has happened. With the added help of professionals, they discover that these detrimental effects are the results of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack on the United States.
Essentially, this is a military history book, and the author of One Second After is educated in military history. We see a strong reflection of the author in the main character, John Matherson. The central aspect of the book is showing how people cope without food and power and hustle only on emergency supplies.
What is The Book All About?
This story takes place in an American town after the 9/11 attack. By referencing this real attack in fiction, the author lures in the readers. The Electromagnetic Pulse attack on this small town affects many, and people begin to starve to death while others learn how to manage basic survival. This American town is left in the dark with no power, and cut off from the rest of the country. With no connection to an electrical grid, people find this experience terrifying as the aftermath of this attack is devastating. The thought of living without power is scary for any person. However, this book takes the reality one step further as people with diabetes. They struggle to keep their insulin cool with no possibility of power.
There are many disturbing scenes in this book, including when the main character witnesses the aftermath of this attack outside. Although this book refers to the possibility of living without food, this isn’t the book’s central focus. It addresses many broader conflicts, like when the main character becomes the leader of the town to help residents through this terrifying time. As readers, we become aware of the possibility of life without electricity, luxury cars, fridges, ovens, etc. As a result, we have to look at our strengths as people. With scientific references to war over the years, One Second After is a basic survival skill book. It will remind you that post-war consequences aren’t just a thing in history. It can still happen anywhere in the world at any time.
Finally, there are many moving elements in this work of fiction. One of these is revisiting of the area one-year after the threat, as well as some references to romance in many chapters.
Who Wrote this Book?
William R. Forstchen is the author of the book. He has written numerous science fiction books and others relating to the civil war and history. Forstchen has a Ph. D in History and holds a particular interest in military history. His knowledge and passions are apparent in many of his books. Currently, Forstchen lives in Asheville with his daughter, Meghan, and he enjoys flying his WWI plane in his spare time. To expand his skills and utilize his many years in education, Forstchen is also a Professor of History at Montreat College.
No matter what genres he’s working on, Forstchen loves to create realistic books featuring people that readers can relate to. Many of his writing efforts are terrifying to the average reader. However, he always endeavors to find at least one character they can either refer to or seek inspiration from.
When Was ‘One Second After’ Released?
Before we look into the One Second After book summary, let’s take a look at its release dates and details about the writing process.
This book was released on March 17, 2009, with a paperback version released on November 24, 2009. With tremendous success and popularity, this book reached number 11 on the New York Times Best Sellers list on May 3, 2009. Forstchen wanted to capture reality, and not make this just a science fiction book. Not only did Forstchen correctly depict war throughout his chapters, but he researched and accurately portrayed the locations he mentions in his book. Otherwise, there would have been a possibility that this professor of history could lose his readers rather than capture their imagination and feelings.
One Second After Book Review
Now, let’s get into the One Second After book review. This book tells the story of what happens after an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack has affected the power supply of North America. But you can look at it as what happens after any major disaster that hits any region. Think large-scale earthquakes, hurricanes (think Katrina), and others. However, the book isn’t about the EMP, but what happens after. The EMP is just the device that gets things started and the threat that sets a dark scene.
Summary of the Book:
John Matherson is a history professor at a small college in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He, his family, and their town must deal with the aftermath of an EMP from a high-altitude nuclear strike. Are they prepared for the consequence of living in a world without electricity? Can they deal with a grandfather in a nursing home, a child with diabetes, and a town on the edge of a major highway? Can John, his friends, and the area survive until help arrives — if it arrives?
This book is about a family and a town that gets caught off guard when disaster strikes. They make mistakes and they learn, and they live in a world we wouldn’t want to exist in. John has knowledge of war from personal experience and from studying it. These help aid him in helping set up the community to defend itself and prepare itself for post-disaster living.
What ‘One Second After’ Teaches Us?
For example, he goes into great detail and offers basic survival tips to help you during or after a war. An example is that the author doesn’t give a single character access to transportation. Readers learn that not having transportation makes you vulnerable. Even if you just own a bicycle, you have means of getting around post-disaster. Also, having a trailer to carry essentials and food supplies is important for basic survival.
Another thing the author teaches readers is to stock up on food – even for years to come. Having non-perishable food, such as soup and beans in cans means you won’t starve to death. Exercising is an unwanted thought for many of us. We learn from this book that poor health and low fitness levels increase your possibility of death. So, don’t put off working out! Finally, always stock up on a good first aid kit for a time you might need it.
One of the town doctors knows how to handle post-disaster relief. He helps guide the town council on what they need to do to ensure the survival of the community. You have community members who refuse to see what is going on and do anything to help (or everything to hinder). And, you have community members who look at the issues and work together to try to build a future for themselves.
This is a massive part of the fiction structure in this book. You’re forced to consider what type of character you would be in this situation. You learn what martial law can do to a community. And also recognize the lengths people will go to survive (both good and bad) and how they’re capable of the power to destroy to protect and save themselves and their loved ones. You learn how the government reacts to civic emergencies and what measures it will go to to help protect its own. With many references to the civil war during this section of the book, we’re taught the truth about the government.
What to Expect from the book?
Be prepared for a PG-13 read.
It is violent and graphic, but I never found it gory. There is death that makes you want to throw the book against the wall and scream at the author. There is some major community conflict dealing with martial law. But there are also lessons to be learned from an individual standpoint about how you can prepare for a disaster on your own and in your community. This is a book about a small population from one man’s perspective and I highly recommend you read it if you are at all concerned about how your family would survive any emergency.
Take the lessons learned from the book and apply them to your family.
Use your learnings with a mindset of getting through a small local emergency even if you don’t take them in terms of a large-scale disaster. Can your family survive for a week without a trip to the grocery store or electricity in the event of a weather storm? Do you know how to find water if the supply is cut off because it’s been contaminated during a hurricane or repair? Do you have a plan if you have a family member with special needs in the case of an emergency? Then, do you have medical supplies to help if someone is injured? Are you prepared to hunt, farm, gather, and garden? Are you ready to take care of your pets? And are you prepared to defend your life?
This book won’t teach you HOW to prepare.
It will teach you to think about your preparations for any emergency. The family doesn’t suddenly become homesteading icons for the community. Mr. Forstchen doesn’t cover all of the realities that you’d have to face in any post-emergency life, but it will get you thinking about the possibilities.
One of the great things about this book is that the government took notice of it and began to use it as it is a valid concern for them. Newt Gingrich gives a compelling argument in the forward of the book (and whether you agree with his politics or not, he has a lot to say about the government’s preparation in cases like these).
How the Book Changed My Life:
One Second After was the first book I read when I began to feel a shift in my thinking on the world, politics, and on making it through our disasters. Reading about the events of a family that was so ill-prepared to take care of itself made me begin to think about my family and how we’d cope. We had originally thought to not give thought to post-war effects but chose to focus on college, love, and happiness. But, why aren’t we learning these basic survival skills in college? Why are they so heavily dismissed?
Reading an account of a falling society that prides itself on being so modern did make me think about what would happen in our community in the event of a localized disaster, not to mention something more substantial. It also triggered me to remember the news stories of what happened in the Gulf States after Katrina and brought home how quickly a society can crumble.
Another reason why this book affected me so profoundly was the storyline dealing with Matherson’s father-in-law who is in a nursing home at the beginning. After reading this, I wrote about preparing for your elderly loved ones. Until recently, my grandmother was in a nursing home, and it always weighed heavily on me how I’d handle the same situation as the Matherson family. Again, we’re not taught these basics, and they’re not even a thought we consider, but these are important factors.
Lastly, this book helped me create a massive community of women that were interested in learning about preparation for their families. Family Preparedness is a group that has significantly grown since I first started it a few years ago. It offers a wealth of information from longtime homesteaders, expert preppers, and beginners.
Final Thoughts on One Second After
One Second After is the book that changed me from someone interested in post-apocalyptic literature. The book also encouraged me to stop thinking and start doing. While I feel like the book focused too much on the military aspects of the town’s survival (although I do understand why) and it has a weak ending, I must say that the overall reality and essence of this book make it hard to put it down. This is because the whole book is dedicated to showing America that anything can happen to people from any community group. However, the book focused on the long-term survival of the characters and community more than I’d hoped.
You can purchase the “One Secon After” books from Amazon or your local bookstores.
Last but not least, remember to read the whole The John Matherson Series:
Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.
She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what's coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.
Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).
Her preparedness skills go beyond just being "ready", she's ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she's feeding her family, she's a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.
Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.
Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.
She's been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.