One Second After

Posted: July 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Do any of you have a contingency plan in case of apocalypse? I admit it, I started working on mine as soon as I read the Zombie survival guide but until this moment I hadn’t really understood how unprepared I am. When it comes to Apocalypses, the Zombie apocalypse is probably the easiest to survive, think of it: Zombies are slow, which means they aren’t good at hunting, this constitutes an advantage for two reasons: they can’t hunt animals, lowering the risk of starving us out and they have troubles catching up with you, climbing, swimming… apart from that you have an earth with a perfectly normal climate, electricity during the first months until you figure out a way to hook up your own small generators and several places where you can find refuge. Now, we go to an EMP, an Ice Age or an international pandemic and that’s like playing the game in the higher difficulty levels, and you only get one life. No electricity means of heating systems or air conditioning, highly reducing the places on earth where you can live, eternal winter means no spring, meaning no food, animals would starve out and so would we. International pandemic… well, that would just be mean an unnecessary.

I find certain romanticism in the concept of the apocalypse (theoretical apocalypse, of course, I thought it would be better to clarify it for our friends in the Interpol and the CIA). Think about it, humanity thrown back to its darkest ages, trying to survive and fight its way back to civilization while the political and social map changes forever. There is certain optimism in these stories, no matter how tragic they are, which always helps me recover a little of my lost faith in humanity.

In ten years, in the middle of an actual apocalypse, you will remember me saying it is romantic while you are working hard to survive… that will get some fun reactions.


Strong Points: Characters, Realism, writing style.

Weak Points: pace in the final part of the novel.

One Second After, written by William R. Forstchen, brings us the catastrophic consequences of an EMP attack over America from the point of view of John Matherson, a military history professor working in a college located on a small community in North Carolina. As it becomes more and more obvious by each passing day that electricity is not going to come back, John must help rally and organize his community if any of them is going to make it through this ordeal alive. Facing tough, immoral choices, sickness, starvation, violent gangs and the impending death of his diabetic daughter John must fight with the help of his neighbors in order to survive until external help arrives… If it ever does.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest achievements of Mr. Forstchen in One Second After is his characters. The author manages to create exactly what he is looking for: an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary scenario. John Matherson is a delightful, carefully built character which resembles a man who could very well be your next door neighbor or your college professor: past, believes and personality are mixed in order to create a could-be-real entity with whom the reader will soon relate, there are things about him you will like and others that you won’t, and that makes him human. Possibly the fact I found more interesting is that while he has tragedies in his past, as a real human being he is not entirely consumed by them though they have strongly affected his personality.

Other characters, such as Charlie, Kate or Tom also enrich the novel by their presence and their evolution, and that is one of the beauties of this book, it doesn’t matter how small the character is, he or she will change in a believable way, answering to the external impulses they receive. The city council’s member’s evolution is subtle through the whole novel, but is there and in the moment you reach the final pages of the novel you discover the great personal travel each one of them has made. Maybe John is the main character of the story, but they are all heroes in their own way, breaking with the old tradition that the main character is the only useful person in the story and leaving us with a sense of community seen in very few novels.

When you are reading the novel it becomes obvious that Mr. Forstchen is that he has done his homework, not only is the novel filled with actual data extracted from the commission to assess the threat to united states from electromagnetic pulse, but the novel is filled with clues of how to survive without electricity, of the different sicknesses and their consequences and of other details which really allow the reader to submerge in the author’s wonderful world. But it goes beyond that, behaviors, character psychology, what each season means to the survivors… all is recorded to the utmost detail and is showed in such a realist way that readers will notice shivers imagining themselves in that situation. This is not a book filled with heroics, this is a book about survival in which morality takes a step back so we can see how our values collapse as they surely would in that situation.

One last positive quality in this novel which I must point out is the Mr. Forstchen writing style or, to be more precise, his talent to convey emotions and awake feelings in the readers. I have ended up teary eyed more than once reading this book because of its superb dramatic economy and the subtlety of some of the tragedies the characters live throughout the novel. It is not a poetic language, filled with style or beauty, but a simple, every-day one filled with emotion and human sympathy.

The only downside, in my opinion, is the dramatic increase in the pace of the final part of the novel. Blurring the details and, instead of accompanying John through the different tragedies described, the author refers through them as a memory in the past, just skipping through two hundred days of disease and starvation that decimates the survivors. I personally would have been interested in discovering how John lived those difficult moments and which decisions did he have to make in order to ensure the survival o the highest number of people.

One Second After has been an amazing surprise, a delicious treat that kept me reading from the beginning to the very end of the book while suffering with its characters and desperately hoping for their survival. I would recommend it to all of those people who enjoy apocalyptic literature and science fiction, for it will surely provide you with unforgettable moments and hours of enjoyment.


¡Hasta la próxima!

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