Full of the kind of conservative rhetoric and survivalist preaching you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic book featuring a Foreword by champion Republican evildoer Newt Gingrich, this is nevertheless the compelling story of a world gone made after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), caused by three atmospheric nuclear detonations, sends the US back to a pre-Industrial Revolution footing, and sends most of the population mad.
One interesting facet to this particular post-apocalypse, and one you don’t often see, is that the population level remains the same even as technology and comfort and communication break down, which means that it really is a very much worse case scenario. According to this version of events, it will take a week for food riots to break out and starvation will be imminent in only a couple of months and those dependent on life-saving drugs will be dead within the same amount of time. It will take less than a season for cannibalism to take over the population, and satanic cults to rise, and for disease to run rampant and for anarchy to let itself loose on the world.
And for America to be invaded by Mexico and China.
And all of this will happen because “we” weren’t prepared, and because “our enemies” — most likely from the Middle East and North Korea, though the real culprits are never confirmed — know our weaknesses and because people are too fat and happy and contented and take too many prescription mood stabilizers and watch too many movies. A lot of the book is just our hero, Army vet and military scholar John Matherson, thinking outraged thoughts about how no one ever took the threat seriously — yeah, because it’s not a serious threat — and how in the good old days, people were better.
Also, man-made climate change isn’t real. Obviously.
For all my philosophical objections to the book, however, I found it compulsively readable, and was gripped by both the destruction of society as they knew it — so quickly! — and also the formation of a new world order, as conventions broke down and old taboos became luxuries the good people of Black Rock, North Carolina simply could not afford. There were some deaths that literally had me weeping, even though I hated so much of this book’s underlying bile, and I came to care for John, despite our vast political differences. Because people on the other side can still be decent people, of course.
Every now and then, I think it’s important to read a book that challenges you and also humanizes diametrically opposed points of view, because living in a liberal bubble can be just as dangerous as being blind to, you know, science and facts and the fact that trickle down economics does not work.
The fact that I got to fulfill this mission and spend some time in a post-apocalyptic world — one of my favourite (hopefully) fictional locales of late — is just a bonus.
Not sure I’m going to go out of my way to track down the other two books in this trilogy, however. I feel like, in reading this blood-soaked manifesto, I’ve been fair and balanced enough for now.
TBR DAY 133: One Second After (After #1) by William R. Forstchen
GENRE: Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: ~2 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.