Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book 16: One Second After by William R. Forstchen

William R. Forstchen, professor of history at Montreat College, has written many books and articles on military history and technology. In his latest book, he's used his extensive knowledge on the subjects as well as his knowledge of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) to create a terrifying possible future for our country.

An EMP, according to Wikipedia, is "a burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) or a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. The resulting electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges." Forstchen believes that EMPs pose a very real threat to the United States - one of our enemies could detonate a large nuclear weapon above the US and the resulting wave could potentially knock out all electrical devices and bring our country to a complete halt, throwing us back into the Dark Ages. We're not talking a minor power outage - these EMPs if powerful enough could do damage that takes months or years to fix.

In the novel, John Matherson, a professor of history at Montreat College in NC (like the author), is preparing for his daughter Jennifer's birthday when they experience a power outage. Only, this isn't like any normal power outage. Days pass and there's no sign of any electricity. Cars have completely stopped working, coming to dead stops in the middle of the streets. People begin to panic, raiding grocery stores and fighting at the pharmacy to get their prescription medications. John, a friend of the local law enforcement and a respected citizen due to his position at the college, his military background, and his vast knowledge of history, drops in to see the mayor and the chief of police. There's been no communication with any other cities, including Asheville, the nearest big town. John has a theory as to what's happening - he believes an EMP has destroyed all the electrical devices in the city, and in other cities as well, judging by the way the town has become cutoff from the outside world.

From there, the town begins to unravel. Martial law is established. Just try to imagine what life is like without electricity - no food can be processed and sold, and the few farms in town cannot sustain a population of 1000s. No medications can be made and distributed, so those who are dependent on insulin or beta blockers die within weeks of their last doses. No phones or computers can connect them to the outside world, so they have no idea what's happening - and there's no hope of help coming, because what they face is occuring in other cities around the country.

For those who survive the disease, hunger, and cold, a new threat looms. Refugees who pass through the town looking for help bring word of a gang called the Posse who have looted and ransacked their way through NC and are headed toward them. This gang has weapons and vehicles, and they burn, ransack, and kill their way through every city, taking all food and anything of value they find and leaving nothing behind. Matherson and the head of security at the college, also a military man, decide there's only one thing to be done. They organize a militia, mostly consisting of scared kids from the college, to stand and fight and protect their town from the Posse.

The book has a foreword by Newt Gingrich and an afterward by Captain Bill Sanders, U.S. Navy. Forstchen clearly believes that by writing this book, he's warning the public of a looming threat that could have devastating effects for our country. The book does its job - it's horrifying to imagine the things that he describes coming true - people being executed in the street for looting; cannibalism running rampant; our country dividing itself as brother fights brother for survival. But... there are no answers to be found in the book. There are no suggestions as to what we can do to protect ourselves from this threat. Even in his afterward, Sanders offers nothing more than the statement that "the solution 'is feasible and well within [our] means and resources to accomplish.'"

The Pollyanna in me likes to think that, should there be a major catastrophic attack on the US, we wouldn't devolve so quickly. But, given the reports of looting and insanity that occurred after the recent earthquakes in Chile, well... I suppose it's not so farfetched. And I did find myself thinking, "Oh my god, I need to stockpile food and water and medicine and I need a gun NOW." But as serious as this threat may be, I'm not 100% sold that it will happen, because even if a country fired nuclear weapons at us, wouldn't our overseas forces do the same to them? Does any country hate us enough to destroy themselves completely in the process? I truly hope we never have to find out.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh this sounds intriguing...and depressing. I'll definitely put it on my list!