I just finished reading One Second After by William R. Forstchen. It has been out since 2009 and was on the best seller list so I won’t feel too bad about telling you some spoilers. First off, let me say that I was surprised at the number of grammatical errors in this novel. And Forstchen is not what I would consider a top notch writer. That’s the bad. The good is the premise of the book. An EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) that knocks out every electronic in the continental United States basically thrusting the country backward in time 150 years. Anything with electronics in it is basically made useless. All communications are gone. Vehicles don’t work (unless they are very old). No electricity, refrigeration, phones, deliveries to the supermarket etc. Everything comes to a grinding halt with no forewarning. The book follows a man and his family in a fairly small town up in the mountains. It also chronicles the breakdown of our society which is what I found the most scary and interesting. There is a popular saying amongst survivor types. “When the supermarket shelves are empty, we are only 9 missed meals away from total anarchy.” At first, it seems to go just about like what we deal with after hurricanes here in the south. A little inconvenient but nothing to get in a real twist about because you know the power crews are working diligently to get your power turned back on. Except in this case, there are no power crews. They are as dead in the water as everyone else and their equipment is all fried. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that banding together in small groups and towns is the only way to survive. Even with that, most of the people do not survive. Food, water and medicines are very quickly looted from the shelves. Disease and starvation are rampant. The elderly and sick begin dying off almost immediately. As food becomes more scarce, people are triaged off basically by how useful they are to the society as a whole. Soldiers get more rations to protect from invading hoardes for example. Your PHD in computer science makes you a liability in this new world. The folks that contribute little or nothing are not as valuable as doctors, mechanics and farmers. The EMP knocks out everything for at least a year and possibly 2 or 3 years. It creates the unimaginable for most of us Americans. The government falls apart. Money is worth nothing and bartering is the only currency. Mexico invades Texas. China occupies the West Coast. The possibilities are endless.
Now comes the really scary part. EMP’s are real and very attainable right now. All it would take is one thermo nuclear device detonated about 250 miles up right above Kansas to bring about all the hell described in the book. The experts put the survival percentage after a year at about 10 to 15%. Meaning approximately 270 million dead.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “I am a good ole country boy and me and my family will be fine. I can farm, hunt and fish.” That’s all well and good but remember, you may have to provide for 2 or 3 years with every other Tom, Dick and Harry in the country for resources. Even if you are a survivalist with a hardened bunker and enough ammo to protect Fort Knox, when an army of starving people wants to come and take it, you’re going down. It’s terribly frightening stuff.
The novel has definitely got me thinking about trying to prepare a little better for extended periods without electricity. If you have not read the book, I would highly recommend it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a bunker to dig and shotgun shells to go buy.