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Summary

In a small North Carolina town, one man struggles to save his family after America loses a war that will send it back to the Dark Ages.

Already cited on the floor of Congress and discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a book all Americans should read, One Second After is the story of a war scenario that could become all too terrifyingly real. Based upon a real weapon - the Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) - which may already be in the hands of our enemies, it is a truly realistic look at the awesome power of a weapon that can destroy the entire United States, literally within one second.

This book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future and our end.

©2009 William R. Forstchen (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

"[An] entertaining apocalyptic thriller....fans of such classics as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach will have a good time as Forstchen tackles the obvious and some not-so-obvious questions the apocalypse tends to raise." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about One Second After

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disturbing and Very Irritating

I selected this audio book because the post-apocalyptic nature of the story appealed to me (saddo that I am...)

However it has a number of genuine challenges - which very nearly led to me throwing the towel in the first few hours of listening (frankly this was not helped by a foreword from Newt Gingrich).

- The narrative is peppered with endless patriotic "God Bless America", "America is the best", "we will endure because we are Americans" comments. These might be heart warning to Americans - for me, their frequency really irritated. And it comes across as slightly smug - from a nation that, whatever they might think, do not have a monopoly on freedom and democracy.

- There are constant references to soldiers, veterans, the military. I don't mean in a "grab a gun, the zombies are coming (they aren't)" sort of way. I mean in a "The American military and vets in particular are wonderful and we all owe them so much". I'm not saying they are not and that they (Americans) don't owe them. But be prepared to listen to a lot of it.

- The book is sort of like a report on the consequences of "the event which happens in the story" converted into a novel - but still sounding somewhat like a report.

What I will say in its favour is that it really does punch home some of the real day to day issues that almost certainly would be endured by people facing this sort of scenario. It has made me consider buying a lot of food in bulk and hiding at the end of my garage waiting for the world to collapse.

I don't think the book is well written in terms of the characters and the narrative framework - it is somewhat disjointed - the author is certainly no Stephen King.

In summary - this IS a post-apocalyptic story. It does go on and on about how wonderful America is. It's really just a warning about what might happen if America doesn't prepare for the worst.

If you want an atmospheric end of the world read - I would say this probably should not be top of your list (try Station 11 if you've not read that).

67 people found this helpful

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Are you prepared?

I love this genre but this was my first EMP novel and I wasn't disappointed it has loads of detail about the breakdown of civilisation that makes the scenario so much more real. My only complaint is that the author felt they had to add in the America forever strap lines which left me cold but overall a very good read if you like this sort of thing

16 people found this helpful

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Assumptions and American Superpatriotism

I'm afraid my opinion of this book differs greatly from so many of the other reviewers - I found myself annoyed throughout. The author obviously did his research on certain topics, but others he completely neglected and important parts of the story were based on weak assumptions. That added to the intense American nationalism and Deep South Republican attitude just left me shaking my head. I'll be taking Audible up on their lovely return policy and this is the first book I'll ever have returned based on pure dislike. The only good thing I can say for it is the narrator was fine.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A shocking look at how fragile our civilisation is

If all of our modern conveniences were taken away in a split second how long would it take our society to unravel? How long would it take civilisation to revert to savagery?
This book is a disturbing what if scenario which could become reality all too easily if not though EMP as depicted in this work then by other means such as economic collapse.
A truly riveting story which is shocking and disturbing along which some devastatingly heart-breaking moments.
This book will definitely leave you thinking, if not change your outlook on our times.

A Five Star Listen

3 people found this helpful

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Good story ruined by tub-thumping rhetoric

I love reading post-apocalyptic fiction of the sociological variety (as opposed to zombies/ mutants on the rampage and tribal warfare) and in its portrayal of an EMP catastrophe and the efforts to rebuild society, this had the makings of a great story.

But… all of this comes with a huge caveat. The strengths of the book are entirely undermined by jingoism, militarism, bible-bashing, a sanctimonious (and quite grating) protagonist and a huge dollop of schmaltz. All of these things may be rousing to an American reader for all I know, but will be hard to stomach for phlegmatic Brits.

I was particularly irked when the lead character decides that the only way to deal with young criminals on the make, is to have them shot in front of an audience. Seriously, the author treats this not as the descent into barbarism but as the re-emergence of civilisation. Even I, with right of centre liberal views, was dumbfounded by some of the awful right-wing rhetoric on display here. I suppose the fact that there is a preface by Newt Gingrich really ought to have set the alarm bells ringing.

Further to all of this, there is the author’s love of historical facts and laboured explanations; definitely the sign of a poor writer. No great writer would ever resort to such condescension.

Give this book a try by all means, but take the flag-waving patriotism with a giant pinch of salt. Yeee-haaaaw!

2 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking storyline

What did you like most about One Second After?

The book explores our modern dependency on technology and how vulnerable we become without it. The difficulties caused by an electronic meltdown were well explored, even down to areas such as those who are medication dependant as well as the more obvious issues such as food, water and power.

What other book might you compare One Second After to, and why?

The book revolves very much around the lead character his family and their town so in that respect, tends not to compare to other books of the genre I have read. This book explores the disaster at the local level. If it were to happen, we would all experience the same issues.

What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

I loved this narrator for his soft accent, good diction and measured pace.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book does tug at the heart strings but would have done so much more with less schmaltz and a big lid on the patriotic We are Americans stuff. I understood what the author was trying to say with it but it was too heavy handed especially as the people causing all the trouble were also Americans too!

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed the book but felt that it missed the opportunity to be taken a bit more seriously and that is a shame. As with so many books today, I felt some of the story and the writing was sacrificed for the movie the author was hoping for.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Startling

This book really does well at demonstrating how dependent we have become on our electrical devices and gives an impression of how life would be if they were all suddenly taken away. If you enjoyed watching Jericho (or any other apocalyptic fiction) you will love this. Parts of this book will excite you, others will depress you, death is inevitable throughout.

2 people found this helpful

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Best of the Genre

I have listened to a few in this genre and this is the first that has managed to stir my emotions. Great story, well narrated and frighteningly easy to put yourself and your family in the story. Superb.

4 people found this helpful

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Basically just a USA circejerk

A bit racist, a fair bit sexist and poorly written, 'One Second After' was an excellent idea that suffered from being authored by somebody with an ego bigger than his linguistic repertoire. Every important character in this book is a man and every time the author mentions a woman it is usually in reference to her physique over any other quality she may bring to the story. I'm never going to listen to this again, in fact there were a number of times I nearly turned it off and refunded it, but I kept at it and if you can see through all the chauvinism, racism, sexism and patriotism it's an OK story.

1 person found this helpful

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Pray it never happens

Where does One Second After rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Best book I've listened to for a while. Perhaps ever.

What did you like best about this story?

This book must've been good as I found myself talking about its scenarios over dinner, wondering to myself what *I* would do in a similar situation and getting emotional more than once as the story progressed. I guess it's really immersive - perhaps more so as an audio book, aided partly by the narrator's performance, which never pulled me out of the story once.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Pray it never happens

Any additional comments?

I've seen reviews of the paper book criticising the grammar. But as a 'read' book I never noticed any of this so I'm glad that I listened to it!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tyson Stewart
  • 23-01-20

The forward is by Newt Gingrich

That should tell you all you need to know. If your response to that is YAY I LOVE THAT GUY AND EVERYTHING HE STANDS FOR ‘MERICUH! then the book will probably delight you.

If, on the other hand, you don’t think much of Newt and his party, then I recommend passing on this. Another critical review said this was a lecture wrapped in a poor attempt at a story. Yep. There are some interesting bits, but it’s mostly finger-wagging. The author is attempting to shame us as a society for not spending even more money on defense than we already do as well as not actively preparing to live in a world suddenly without power, electronics, and communication. The trouble is there are many more pressing and likely catastrophes than this one, and worrying about them is a terrible way to live.

I like most post-apocalyptic fiction for the clever survivalism and rebuilding of society, even as a microcosm. They can be cautionary tales too if that’s what the author wants, but the story should come first. It didn’t here.

104 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony Cunningham
  • 28-09-19

Embarrassing army porn

Wooden dialogue, paragraph after paragraph of tedious descriptions of some such gun or explosive or whatever, and a never ending barrage of "oo rah semper fi soldiers are saints must salute the flag" silliness.

tedious treatment of an interesting premise

51 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-04-19

Phenomenal

Amazing narration, terrifyingly realistic story, this book is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

49 people found this helpful

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  • J. Donelson
  • 23-03-19

Couldn’t stop even if I wanted to

As a former nuclear power sailor, I’m familiar with the Compton effect and emp. This is a thought provoking venture into what would happen to our communities were we to be hit with an emp. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and an all too real threat. It will make you want to stockpile food, medicine, fuel, guns, ammunition, and every pre-80s era vehicle you can get your hands on.

40 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew Gardner
  • 13-04-19

Eye Opening

Like many of the characters of this book, I never thought of the possibility of a civilization ending event, such as an EMP. Like the fictional citizens of Black Mountain, NC, I didn’t believe that this was even a plausible idea, let alone remotely possible. But, unlike those fictional men, women and children I grew to love and admire, crying at births and deaths and celebrating at the discovery of food, I have been awakened to the possibility of life as I know it coming to an end.

As a result of this fictional, but all too real novel, I have began to prepare myself and my family for the possibility of any event that would put us at risk, particularly the events that threaten to end life as I know it.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-07-19

Get on with it already!!

Oh man, well, where do I start and not provide any spoilers... The voice acting is OK at best, not the voice actor himself but the way the directing made the main character sound like he is Rambo but in fact he's more of a Military pencil pusher, Doesn't quite go with the depiction of the character. And OMG!!! how long does it take a book to get to the main topic at hand, Holy cow!! Yes I get it, it is fiction and the author can do whatever they want, but man, we are talking about a post apocalyptic scenario, the author chews on this story like it is freaking bubble gum, You are in the book for quite sometime before the main plate is served and even then!!! I am sorry for all my rambling, I was very disappointed by this book. So many other books out there of this same subject are so much better formatted, they put you in the action right away and explain things along the way. This book is like watching some kind of twisted southern soup opera where every dramatic detail is explained and the action is just a by-product of that drama, boring!!!!

28 people found this helpful

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  • Catherine McQueen
  • 01-02-20

Nope.

This book has pissed me off at about every turn. Opt for The Road instead. I’ve never wanted to punch so many characters in the throat before. Might be my first disappointing Audible purchase.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Kim
  • 09-04-19

Profound

My wife got this audiobook and I listened to it as well. I knew bits and pieces of most of what is found in the writing but I know with certainty that my confidence in myself to survive is ill placed. I have young children and the loss of them is utterly paralyzing to me. This book, rather the sobering realities Mr. Forstchen smacks you in the face with, are scary. it could all end and I could do little to save my family. I do not have confidence in our leadership, but then, the more one gets (material items) the more one wants and the more complacent we become. As a psychologist I see the flaws in our attitudes, but I don't need to have this degree to see we are taking the world, and life for granted. I am not a religious person but I feel as though I am in a fox hole because I damn near want to pray that our leadership in this country wakes up. Perhaps not what one wants to read in a book review. It's the only one I have ever written. This book changed me, and not for better or worse, but in terms of awareness. I believe everyone needs to read this. Andrew

11 people found this helpful

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  • Kurt Schwoppe
  • 02-03-17

A Realistic Worst Nightmare

Do NOT let the negative comments sway you; this is an EXCELLENT book. Maybe the impact regarding EMP is a bit overblown, but who cares!? It’s not about EMP, it’s about what happens to a modern society when it suddenly isn’t modern. The results are terrifying. Bill Forstchen’s conclusions may be extreme, but they are well thought out and certainly possible. While the story does continuously harp about our reliance on modern technology, that’s exactly what the characters are realizing as their modern day conveniences disappear nearly leading them to the point of utter despair. Some may also be put off by a political tone associated with religion and nationalism, but Forstchen supports this societal tendency by weaving in enlightening historical references as seen through the eyes of the main character. This is a fascinating book that holds your attention, smacks you across the face a few times, and hopefully makes you appreciate that iPhone you are currently taking for granted. Finally, Joe Barrett’s narration is also one of the best I’ve ever heard for an Audible book.

140 people found this helpful

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  • Brian Douglas
  • 04-08-18

"The Good, Bad, and Overall..."

The Good: Interesting approach on an overlooked threat.

The Bad: Reminds me of the fear factory that is 24 hours news. Linear approach to hardships and obstacles faced during a world changing incident does not allow for alternative options not presented within the story. Lake full of fish - ignored, eat any source of protein - ignore insects, limited resources in a poorly defensible position - stay in place, enforce martial law on others - refuse to give up 'MY' car, have running cars - not apt enough to use them as generators, and the biggest: -use 'MY' morality to dictate your survival. For an Ex-military persona I would expect better survival techniques.

Overall: The author makes reference to Jonestown fanaticism but fails to see his own hypocrisy in his own writing. The story is fine, the writing is apt, but this is mostly earmarked for the Kool-Ade drinkers who are rating this as firewall 5 stars. I bought it for $5.95 (sale) and got my money worth out of the story. Your mileage and/or Flavor-Ade may vary.

78 people found this helpful