In my endless search for something decent to read, I went to the library yesterday and among other things picked up William R. Forstchen’s book, One Second After. It had a forward by Newt Gingrich so I presumed the book wasn’t full of smut or of anti-Catholic or anti-Christian hate.
The story centers around an attack on the US using an EMP pulse. An EMP pulse can be generated by detonating a nuclear device far above the earth. There is no fallout as in a traditional nuclear attack. Just the immediate shutdown of the power grid and any devices we have with modern electronics in them— like cars, cell phones, and the like.
The hero of the story, John Matherson, is a retired military man who currently teaches at a small Christian college near a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. He is a widower with two daughters. His late wife’s parents live nearby.
It starts with a simple power outage. Annoying, because it is the twelfth birthday of his younger daughter, Jennifer, and she wants to listen to her new CD but can’t. And then, John discovers that his car won’t start and has to borrow his mother-in-law’s antique Edsel.
Driving to town John discovers that the cars along the interstate have all stopped. He is somewhat a center of attention since he has a working car. He almost loses the car to some toughs from the highway. He contacts some of the town leaders and finds they are cut off from the outside world— no phone, no radio, no internet. There is a fire nearby caused by a crashed plane— it is later discovered that nearly every plane in the air has crashed, with the exception of a few WW2 era planes— one of which is owned by a man in town.
The story continues, telling how John, his family and his neighbors cope with the crisis caused by the EMP. I won’t tell more, so you can discover the rest of the story yourself when you read the book.
One thing that struck me personally was the part of the story that dealt with a child who was an insulin-dependent diabetic, who needed insulin— which was in limited supply and needed to be refrigerated, which was no longer possible. Just last Sunday on The Walking Dead, there was a bit about a woman who was an insulin-dependent diabetic. And I remember a values-clarification class in high school, set in an overcrowded nuclear war bunker, where one of the people whose fate you must decide was an insulin dependent Christian minister (so we all had to vote to jettison the minister for pragmatic reasons).
Diabetics just don’t fare well in the apocalypse. At least not the ones who need insulin. I’m diabetic, but right now am controlling it by sticking to a strict ketogenic (low-carb) diet. But in an apocalyptic situation, it would be hard for most diabetics to eat that way. What if the only food rations they give you are ramen noodles and fruit juice?
And then, the lights went out….
When I was about at the halfway point in One Second After, the lights went out. OK, it wasn’t caused by an EMP pulse but by the windstorm that was going on. But it was scary all the same.
It made me aware of how unprepared I was even for something as small as a power outage. I keep my flashlights someplace where I can grope to them in the dark, but none of them had fresh batteries. I had a battery operated lantern that worked, and I could find some candles. So I finished the book reading by candle light.