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Something Like a Review – One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Post apocalyptic fiction makes me happy.

Ridiculously happy.

It might be because I work in customer service. But that might be a tale for another post.

I’d heard a bit of a buzz about this one from a friend who likes scary movies as much as I do, so I took her word on this book being creepy and engrossing more seriously than the average reader. After perusing some of the audiobooks on Audible so I could spend the credits that were burning a hole in my account, I stumbled across it. I figured, “Oh, what the hell? Even if it’s horrible, I can still enjoy the demise of humanity on my way to work. At least it will make the commute worth it.” (Like I said, I work customer service. It’s enough to inspire some pretty vengeful reactions to the plight of one’s fellow man…that is, if the whole gutter-sniping over the election didn’t do it for you.)

So, I dropped it in my cart, downloaded it and got all my nifty electronic gizmos synched up and ready for the end of the audiobook I was listening to at the time.

Never before have I really thought about what a complete and utter loss of all technology would do to my world. A world in general, yes, but not MY world. There’s a big difference, as most readers know. Not only did One Second After make me consider this, it brought it home talking about places I knew. Black Mountain (where I was planning on going about two weeks from the time I finished this book…to a cabin….in the woods….on the side of a mountain…), Charlotte, Asheville, Charleston. It was creepy to think of those places and how civilization would deteriorate, how familiar land and city scapes might be overrun with a ravaging horde of human locusts.I thought about what it would be like to lose power in my own home for more than a few hours or days. I’d have no water. No way to cook. No food storage. Little food in the cupboards. No resources. What if the dread EMP actually DID happen and we were jettisoned back a hundred years into a world we are no longer equipped to understand? What happens when the pre-packaged, pre-processed food runs out? What about the people whose lives depend on machinery or medicine to live? What happens when there is no smartphone or computer capable of pulling up Google to find the answers to simple survival questions? How long would it take to run to the local hardware store and sporting goods store/department to get the survival gear necessary to live in a country where survival means fighting to defend yourself and your food source? What would be left when I got there and how far would it get me? What kinds of books should I steal from the library on the way back?

I came to the conclusion that I’d be totally screwed.

For the first time, I seriously considered planting a garden and tried to remember all the practical things I’d learned from my grandfather on his farm. I wondered if I’d be able to remember or re-learn those things in time to make a difference. I tried to figure out an optimal time for this kind of apocalyptic disaster to strike to ensure survival. I calculated how much water I’d be able to carry back from the lake using the receptacles I had in my house.

In my opinion, this is the kind of thing that makes a book a great one, even if there are imperfections or minor annoyances. This book made a fiction (however possible or probable) very, incredibly, terrifyingly real and it’s not one for the faint of heart. It made me a little paranoid and made me wonder “what if…” in the context of my own life. Forstchen does a great job of world building and making disaster not only real, but chillingly plausible. He did a great job thinking through the aftermath of a devastating loss of technology and how people would react, and eventually adapt. On the whole, the book was great and a well written story. For me, there were a few passages that were preachy and felt heavy-handed. I could see the author stick his fingers into the cake of his character, then try to cover over it with a pretty speech. It didn’t work for me and I rolled my eyes a few times and kicked up the playback speed until the section was done and the story came back.

And while a garden would be nice, and practical in the event of disaster, I didn’t do it. I guess I’ll be one of those wanderers. Wish me luck…

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Multiple versions also available from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 4 stars

Potential re-read: Most likely, but it will be a while. My TBR pile is getting way out of control

Dead-tree worthy?: Not sure. Depends on the reaction I have to it after the second run-through. I’m afraid this might be one of those books I loved the first time, then was a little numb to the second time around and started picking apart for flaws. (The curse of the internal editor. That bitch can’t keep her nose out of anything!)

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