wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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If this ever happens, I'm a dead man.

I've read similar books before - Warday, Lucifer's Hammer, and Dies The Fire - all fall into the "What happens when the technology fails?" category, but One Second After is more chilling somehow. Perhaps it's that the story is set in familiar country, perhaps it's because none of the characters are larger-than-life heroes...perhaps it's because the scenario and its results are all too plausible.

The story starts in a North Carolina hill town, home to a small college, a nursing home and a bunch of small businesses just off Interstate 40 near Asheville. One day the electronics stop working, and it doesn't take the protagonist (a retired Army colonel) long to figure out that America's been hit by an EMP weapon. Things begin to fall apart as most of the familiar aspects of American life in the 21st century don't work, but the main character and his fellow citizens agree to impose (and enforce) martial law in the town. Scavenging, improvisation and trying to cope with the looming spectres of famine and an invasion by a small army of cannibalistic looters drive the plot to a bittersweet conclusion. This was not an easy read for me, because I understand how complex our society is, how dependent on cheap energy and transportation our food and medical supplies are. How dependent on these things we are.

I joke sometimes that I don't much care for Mother Earth on account of she's been trying to kill me for years, but in truth she's trying to kill all of us, and all that keeps the Four Horsemen at bay, really, is a thin veneer of technology and a society that encourages us to be all that we can be. Both of those can be blown away in the space of a few minutes...and what then, when your telephones and Internet no longer work and your debit card is just a useless shard of plastic? The Dark Ages aren't as far away as you think.

tl;dr: This is an excellent read, much like Stirling's Dies The Fire except without the Alien Space Bats and RenFaire Celts. The hardback is available for ~$6 at Barnes & Noble, and well worth it at the price.
Tags: books, culture w/o politics
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