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Sunday, January 29, 2017

ONE SECOND AFTER (John Matherson #1) (audiobook) by William R. Forstchen

A Review of the Audiobook

Published in 2009 by Blackstone Audio
Read by Joe Barrett
Duration: 13 hours, 21 minutes

When this book was first published, it made a sensation of sorts, which is pretty tough to do if you are a science fiction book. As the book's promoters are proud to point out, excerpts from this book were even read into the Congressional Record from the floor of the House of Representatives as a warning about the dangers of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon to the United States.

An EMP happens as a by-product of the explosion of a nuclear weapon. In short, a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere can generate this pulse and fry almost all modern electronic circuits by overwhelming them much like a lightning strike will due when it hits someone's home. The pulse can be generated from high enough in the atmosphere that the bomb itself does not cause an explosion on the planet's surface or even cause a radiation danger. In this book, no characters saw the nuclear weapons explode, all they certainly felt the effects of the EMP.

In this book, three weapons disable almost every piece of electronics in the United States. The book demonstrates that America is remarkably vulnerable to such an attack. Almost none of our facilities are "hardened" to survive such an attack. In fact, almost none of our military facilities and vehicles are hardened to survive EMP attacks - the exception being the few bits of machinery that were survivors from the Reagan Administration. Sadly, the Reagan Administration was the last administration to take EMP seriously enough to take steps to survive it.

So, all vehicles from the mid-1970s forward are rendered inoperable due to their electronic controls. Power plants are wiped out. The phone companies are gone. Cell towers, television, computers, printers - all gone. Everything stops in its tracks right where it was all over the country. Planes crash. Trains stop. Cars stop all over the country right where they are.

America reverts back to its pre-electricity days and America is totally unprepared.

The strength of this book is the detailing of how America would fall apart after such attack but not its actual prose. There are lots of repetitive phrases and way too much detail about the nearby college (which also happens to be the where the author teaches). Lots of the story is told by way of discussion in the town council. The local doctor tells the council how horrible things will be once modern medicines are used up, etc. and then the narration goes on to say that it happened just like the doctor had predicted. It gets the story moving forward but it is not particularly compelling. Sometimes the book is just hamfisted and clunky in its approach.

But, I found myself intrigued by the story and I totally bought into the premise. I found myself listening whenever I could because I simply had to know what happened next. And, that is the mark of a good book, despite its faults. I was so intrigued that I immediately picked up its sequel.

The book was read by veteran reader Joe Barrett who does a solid job with a variety of accents. He did an especially good job with retired Army sergeant Washington Parker.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: One Second After by William R. Forstchen.

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