Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Literally the Best Reviews: One Year After - William R. Forstchen

One Year After -- William R. Forstchen
Forge Books
304 Pages

It’s not often that I write a review of a sequel without writing the review of the first book beforehand. However, in this case, while the first book is good, the second book is simply that much better. One Year After by William R. Forstchen is the follow up to One Second After. It may behoove us to do a quick synopsis of the first book in order to give a deeper understanding of the second book.

An electromagnetic pulse destroys the power of the United States in a single instant. Communications and infrastructure are destroyed and the country is plunged back into the Middle Ages. History professor, John Matheson struggles in this new reality to keep his family together and survive the new wilderness of America. Using his historical knowledge, Matheson is able to regroup a small, North Carolina town into a thriving survival center, and ultimately become a benevolent leader of this community.

Continuing in One Year After, Forstchen revisits Matheson and the small town in the hills of North Carolina. After a year of hardships, the town is coming together to bring back a semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, just as the townsfolk are hitting their stride, a provisional government has formed and decided that each town must volunteer a percentage of their young adults for conscription into the provisional army. Knowing that losing so many of the able-bodied men and women so early into their recovery could mean disaster.

As leader, John Matheson knows that this draft could signal the end of his town, Black Mountain. Also, as part of the draft, his own daughter could be sent off to unknown areas for war. Is this provisional government a true representative leadership, or is it a coup by others to control what is left to the United States? Matheson must weigh these options carefully before making a decision.

What ensues is a power struggle between Matheson and a shadowy government that has risen from the ashes. Can Matheson decipher all that is coming at him from his own people and from the people who are trying to usurp power after a tragedy? It takes every bit of his energy and knowledge to do what he feels is best for his people.

William R. Forstchen’s books have made it to the floor of Congress as a warning to what could happen if the United States was attacked. It has been cited as a “book that all Americans should read.” It is said that this books gives a realistic look at what could happen to the United States.

While an EMP is a hugely dangerous weapon that could seriously cripple American infrastructure, its effect would be temporary. In a rather short time, new computers would replace those that were fried. There would be an instant panic, but it would not be the end of world. Well….maybe once your smart phone died, it would be the end of the world.

Forstchen writes a character in Matheson that shows the struggles that leaders go through in order to keep his charges safe and prosperous. Once he makes his decisions, Matheson sticks by those decisions. It is a sympathetic character that helps the reader identify with him.

The story is fast paced, and it makes you think about what could happen if the United States did lose its technological prowess. There would be small pockets of survivors struggling to live, and of course there would be groups who tried to take advantage of the absence of power to take control themselves. All that combined makes for a scary and exciting thriller for reading.

While I question the plausibility of an EMP completely destroying the way of American life, I think that Forstchen’s novelization of the after effects of a decimating attack are nearly spot on. Most of us would have no idea how to survive in the scenario played out in this book. Most of us would probably die, or roll over for the first idea of authority that came along -- good or evil. That’s what makes One Year After simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

Next Week: Your Fathers, Where Are They? By Dave Eggers

Craig Bacon is not a survivalist, but he does have enough food stocked up to last awhile. Catch his Twitter shenanigans at @hippieboy73 before the net goes down.