One Second After and One Year After Books

In the last two weeks I have listened to two audio books. “One Second After” and its sequel “One Year After” by William R. Forstchen take place at a small North Carolina town near Ashville. The first starts with a normal day in small country town with life as normal. But suddenly every electrical device stops working.

Later you find that two of the countries that have been promising to destroy the US got their hands on enough technology to set off three Electro Magnetic Pulse bombs that cover the US and more that cover parts of Europe and Asia. Those bombs send out a strong burst something like a sunspot does and it burns out anything that uses electricity.

These doomsday books follow a retired Army Colonel that was teaching at the small local college as he and his neighbors try to survive. The author is very good with explaining the big things as well as the little details that would probably happen as civilization falls apart.

Other movies and books like these have made me want to become a survivalist, and if I was not so old I might make preparations. Other doomsday scenarios include nuclear war, epidemics, and invasion by aliens that totally disrupt out way of life. They do make you think about what would happen.

Within weeks, about half the population of the area in the book are dead. The first to go are those on life support at hospitals and nursing homes. Then the folks that depend on daily medication that is no longer available at your corner drug store. Since almost no vehicles run, out of shape people walking to find food and water or cutting wood for fires and trying to carry it home die of heart attacks. But the biggest threat to somewhat healthy people are that most deadly animal, other people.

Riots and looting start within the first day. Hording of food may give you something to eat, but it attracts hungry folks that will kill you for it. Then, when things get brought to a semblance of order, people start starving and dying of diseases like salmonella and other bacterial infections from lack of sewage processing plants. And the folks of the small town, who have tried to keep order and ration what little food they have so they can survive, have to fight off city folks by the thousands arrive wanting to “share” their scant provisions.

One thing surprised me. When folks realize their frozen and refrigerated meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to spoil they start gorging, eating all of it. The professor does try to salt some of his meat down with a bag of road salt he has stored for the winter.

I was amazed that no one thought of making jerky and pemmican. Those relatively simple processes will preserve meat and fresh berries for months to years.

Many of the folks in this rural area know how to hunt and do have guns. They have some outdoor skills. But, without matches, it is amazing how many can’t even build a simple fire for boiling water and cooking game. And many of the ones that manage to build a fire burn their houses and themselves since they do not have a clue about safety with an open fire.

Game starts disappearing but too many, in my mind, do not consider a lot of sources of food. The squirrels the professor kills go to his two golden retrievers rather than to his family. Of course, pet dogs become a serious problem, in several ways, when dog food runs out.

The professor does kill a couple of possums, but they don’t have a clue how to cook them. And it takes weeks for them to realize songbirds are edible. It seems the only wild plants they know is edible are dandelions.

No consideration is given to other wildlife like bugs and grubs, although the book talks of people going into grill type restaurants and scraping grease traps for something to eat. The author does know a little about surviving like people did 200 years ago, about the level society degenerates to, but misses important points.

Bullets and guns become invaluable. In one place he says five .22 bullets will buy you a rabbit or squirrel, after they finally realize tree rats are edible by humans. And higher caliber rounds are horded for protection.

Few realize the value of good boots and clothes that protect you. Many are barefoot, especially those fleeing the cities, since their shoes wear out within a few days of walking. Bathing is almost non-existent since soap would quickly run out.

In the second book the small town has survived for two years and is somewhat stable since they were able to grow some food during the two summers between books. A few small farmers and the professor realize the importance of keeping some seeds for the next year as well as keeping some breeding stock of pigs, chickens and cows rather than eating them all.

But then a bigger threat arrives, in the form of “help” from the reforming US government. Of course some bureaucrats and politicians survived in well stocked bunkers near Washington, DC and some of our military assets from other places not affected by the EMP blasts, like the middle east and South Korea, make it home. And some of our navy ships survive and return.

The problem is many of those government type officials think they have power over everyone else and want to take from them, but have no clue what it takes to survive without confiscating others supplies. Tin pot “supervisors” that become little dictators when sent to places like Ashville to establish regional government are a scourge, almost destroying what the survivors have worked to establish.

These books are interesting and make you think of what could happen, and how important basic outdoor skills can be, even if they are depressing.

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