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James Brody August 15th, 2010 11:50 AM

One Second After
 
Three missiles deliver high altitude nuclear blasts that melt every solid state circuit in our nation. Edsels, old Beetles, and tube-radios work but not much else. Airplanes crash, cars roll to a stop, and your daughter bitches “Daddy, fix my cell phone.”

Washington, New York, and Boston burn.

At the same time, seventy-five percent of a North Carolina town dies: Medication and hot water vanish, broken bones and scratches infect, diabetics fade, and executives get heart attacks when pushing their cars. Nursing homes empty quickly – everyone dies in pain and filth except a few staph-resistant employees. People eat their pets, bury children, and, to control disease, forbid strangers to enter. Druggies at first think it is a divine fulfillment of their wishes, that almost no one has a toy that works; women sell themselves for food – “you’ll really like me after I clean up a bit”; veterinarians and physicians are interchangeable; bullets are the new currency; and our antisocial types form mobs that rove between towns and eat people.

Irony: the Chinese could have fired the missile just before they invaded California “in order to help us.” And they did so after selling us generations of electronic components that not only did more but also were more sensitive to EMP…it’s oddly Darwinian and a replay of Haldane’s notion that overspecialized traits become lethal handicaps when environments change quickly….but I’m not paranoid!

The survivors are tough, lucky, and love America and each other. Unlikely heroes find each other, good character studies. Read this book. Plan. Act …. Or buy some Worcestershire for Rover and Mittens.

Forstchen, William R. (2009) One Second After. NY: Tom Doherty Assoc. (paper, $15)


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