One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Review by J.D.Hughes


Newt Gingrich, William Forstchen’s co-author on a number of alternate history novels, sets the tone for One Second After with his forward to the book. “Though this book is a work of fiction, it is also a work of fact. Perhaps a future history, that should be thought provoking and yes even terrifying for all of us.”

Whether you live in a bunker or are just an armchair survivalist, if you haven’t read William R. Forstchen’s One Second After, you are doing yourself a disservice. Unlike so much survival fiction, this book is not a poorly written political soapbox or a how-to manual disguised as fiction. Forstchen’s novel is as solid as it gets. One Second After deals with the trials and tragedies suffered in the small town of Black Mountain after an EMP attack disables the North American electrical grid.

Professor John Matherson, a retired Army officer, lives in Black Mountain with his daughters and dogs, teaching at the local Montreat College. What starts as an average day quickly spirals downward when all electrical appliances, cars and cellphones suddenly cease to function. There follows the struggle of Matherson and the town to survive over the next year. Focusing in on the basics, Forstchen narrates the plight of the people of the town as they soon realize they have been thrust back to a 19th Century level of existence, without the skills or tools to manage.

Forstchen doesn’t shy away from hard truths. The characters in the book aren’t preppers with stockpiles of food and ammo; they are average Americans dependent on a system of modern conveniences. With scenes of looting, violent clashes with intruders, and personal tragedies, Forstchen manages to touch on the reality of what could happen in a total societal collapse. With excruciating detail, Forstchen describes the fall of our modern society with scenes of the elderly abandoned in care facilities, the ill running out of their prescriptions, and the gradual starvation as parents go hungry to feed their children.

The author, a resident of the actual Black Mountain, uses his intimate knowledge of the town, its residents, and the surrounding geography to paint a believable portrait of small town America at its best and worst. The afterward by Cpt. Bill Sanders (USN), gives a brief technical description of the science behind EMP and describes how recommendations and warnings of the EMP Commission were largely ignored when the report was released the same day as that of the 9/11 Commission.

Where will you be One Second After?