"One Second After" series review

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"One Second After" series review

Post by Lonestar » 2017-11-21 05:46pm

I just put down The Final Day, which was third in a series of prepper fiction about a EMP strike. I felt compelled to sit down and bang this out.

A review of “One Second After” series by William Forstchen


Since The Last Day is such a staple of prepper/survivalist fiction, I decided to give it a shot. After all, if Steven Konkoly’s self-published Jakarta Pandemic series was a good use of time and re-readable, surely something published by Tor and with a forward by Newt Gingrich would be good to go, right?

Nope. I’ve read worse books, but only the indecipherable tomes inflicted upon high school students by Hawthorne and Dickens, or maybe House of Leaves. If for some reason you feel like you might need to read these books, bear in mind that this is riddled with spoilers.

PLOT
The plot is fairly boilerplate, and not much above standard fan fiction. The details are not hugely important.

Set in Black Mountain/Montreat college in Western North Carolina, the story follows one Col. John Matheson(USA ret) who teaches history, is a “military history” expert, and conveniently has kept a paper from a the US Army War College about the effects of a EMP. When an “Iranian/Middle East-Korean Alliance” detonates multiple missiles over the continental US, a EMP renders inoperable most modern technology. The first book largely centers on the die off and fighting an “army of gangsters” called The Posse. The good rural folk trained by Token Black NCO are able to dispatch the army of barbarians from the urban areas of the Piedmont and Tidewater. The US Military arrives into town almost a year to The Day of the attack. China and Mexico have taken the opportunity to occupy much of the Western US.

The second book, set approximately 2 years after “the day”, has the surviving Federal government in Bluemont(so used presumably because Forstchen didn’t want to write out “Mount Weather” a lot) send a civil administrator to Asheville. Trouble starts when draft notices go out for a “Army of National Recovery”. Matheson is offered to have the draft notices for his community cut in half if he accepts an offer for being Major General. He declines, bedlam starts, and the Good Rural Folk defeat the civil administrator and the military units in Asheville, even capturing a UH-60 Blackhawk.

The third book, now approximately 3 years after the Day, begins when the adjunct of a former colleague of Matheson wanders into town. He has been beaten to near death by raiders, and before he dies he talks about how the colleague (a General Bob Scales). Bob Scales is tasked with corralling Matheon’s community in anticipation of an offensive against Atlanta. At around this time the community of Black Mountain has restored power, and is now plugging in old computers seeing some are working. Because there is conveniently a very wealthy husband/wife prepper couple who also were super sekret hackers, the soon listen in on the communications with the Bluemont government, eventually intercepting sexting emails to Site R in Pennsylvania. General Scales decides to find out what’s what, leads a few companies of infantry to Site R(along with Matheson) and they easily storm the place and discover that there are hundreds of VIP families in the facility, as the “real power brokers” knew about the attack and moved everyone to safety. Bob Scales gets on the radio and tells the world what’s going on, and sets a “new” federal government to be established near Gettysburg. The (((deep state))) in Bluemont is defeated.


Research

Man, where do I even begin? The author takes pride on how well he researched for this book series, and the research is just…just terrible. We start with assuming that everything more modern than, say, the 70s is completely inoperable. This is in contradiction to previous studies that indicated most automobiles would be okay if turned off(or more specifically, those without security fobs would be okay). This is because the computers that run modern automobiles are largely hardened; starting at the turn of the century as more electrical features proliferated, ranging from retractable antennas and souped up sound systems, it was discovered a significant degree of hardening was needed. Throughout the series anything with a transistor in it, even if it’s turned off and unplugged, is written off…except of course until Apple IIcs are found to give the heroes an advantage.

Moving on to the inane “Iranian-North Korean Alliance” attack. The author hasn’t the barest idea of how there International Affairs work. Musing that maybe, maybe, the two systems of society, economy, ideology, and government are too different for any secret alliance to be successful is just beyond his grasp. Konkoly did a far better job explaining how we got to that point it in his own EMP series, and I had thought that that was stretch.

“We used to have real rules of war, not ones that tied our hands behind our back. Like back in WW2.” It’s worth noting that Patton said “any enemy combatant that got within 500 yards of an Allied troop had lost the right to not get summarily shot”, so I don’t know if that’s what Forstchen is advocating here. But probably.

Forstchen repeatedly describes rotor aircraft as “still in desert camo”. Generally speaking, army and USMC aircraft are not repainted for the environment. This would have been easy for him to look up, but I suppose that that was too hard for him.

He repeatedly refers to magazines as “clips”, which drove me up the wall to no end.

At one point a Afghan war vet describes ROE where “they weren’t even allowed to shoot back if fired upon” in Afghanistan. While I am aware of at leats one NATO member of ISAF who had that ROE, I would be any amount of money that Forstchen would be unable to produce such rules for American troops.

The author seems to think that cracking modern cryptography is just like Bletchy Park, and totally doesn’t require banks of super computers. Conveniently, there’s the very well off prepper family that did software work for NASA, and they have students from the Montreat College Cybersecurity program, who are “real geniuses” there to help out. Ignoring the significant problems with use-it-or-lose-it for skills after 3 years without computers, I strongly doubt “real geniuses” in IT and information Security are going to Montreat for their Cyber Security program, which has “a survey of the Old Testament” on the curriculum and “the ability to integrate Christian worldview and ethics in the work environment” as a goal for the program. I can’t speak to their IT specific classes, but I am skeptical that these are equal to or superior to something like what a flagship public institution would have.

I guess in Forstchen’s world no one would notice Blackhawks suddenly landing at schools and spiriting away families of VIPs hours before the attack, or the number of helicopters/road traffic heading to such facilities in rural parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Forstchen describes Raven Rock mountain complex as having been “mothballed” after the Cold War and originally built to house 25k people(!). Matheson, despite having been an instructor at the Army War College not far away, never heard of Site R until General Scales tells him about it.

These are the sort of problems right off the top of my head, research wise, but the most egregious part of the books was…

The Messaging

The author seems to think he is writing another Alas, Babylon. He has not. Where Randy Bragg and his extended family are progressive and inclusive, Matheson and the Black Rock community are regressive and scions of “standing up to political correctness” trope. Forstchen makes use of the token “good” black in two of the books, to stand in contrast to the “bad urban populations” they have to fight. The author never lets a opportunity pass to comment about “political correctness” throughout the series, or harking about how national guilt was pushed in public universities.

Where Pat Frank used religion as a vehicle for the story, Forstchen dialed Christianity up to 11 and, especially in the third book, seemed to have some sort of praying going on every 4-5 pages. The one non-Christian, a Pakistani named Hamid who runs a gas station, isn’t seen after the first book. Hope he wasn’t killed by the locals, but odds seem good. Why? Well…

9/11 is mentioned so frequently that it should be accompanied by a shitty modern Nashville style song about it. At one point in a town meeting that takes place 2 years after The Day(remember, at this point approximately 80% of the town population has died) citizens jarringly interject that “we should have killed everyone in Gitmo”.

Matheson, a professor at a small, expensive college with no endowment has dripping contempt for the “elites” who went to Ivy League schools where large endowments mean a lot of financial aid. The author got his PHD at Purdue, which totally doesn’t present itself as an elite institution.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about “Mexico seizing control of the Southwest and China the West coast up to the Rockies”.

In the third book Forstchen goes hard into the (((Deep State))). Even going so far as “discovering” about Site R because someone used their personal email in the clear. Somehow I doubt this wasn’t in reference to the Trump clan doing so. At one point there is a sarcastic reference to “our good friends the Russians” in context to the (((Deep State))), something that I’m sure he thought would age better when he wrote it in 2016.

The president is a woman and “former secretary of state” with a shrill voice. On the morning of The Day she and others get their families to safety and don’t tell “that fool(44)” about it, so he dies. They had thought the attacks would “only” be strikes on NYC and DC, and for some reason East Coast elites in the authors mind would have been onboard with tanking the economy that such an attack would bring in the name of a “reset”.

Matheson and General Scales make much of a need to “return to the Constitution” and end the third book by just inviting 5 representatives from each remaining state, with no clear instruction for elections and selections. But that’s okay, the shadow government is defeated and China totally wouldn’t be alarmed by a Christian Dominionist general taking over and overthrowing the government in Mount Weather.

Conclusion

Don’t spend your money on these books. I was really hoping they would be, well, maybe not great but good at least. But it’s now obvious that the reason they sold so well in the Prepper community is the reason why I hate the prepper community; it’s reactionary theocratic rhetoric through and through that ends with “teaching those elites a lesson”.
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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by Broomstick » 2017-11-21 07:25pm

I read the first book.

Additional grievances I have is Matheson's manipulations to save his Type 1 diabetic daughter and damn the potential consequences to anyone else, which makes him thoroughly unlikable in my eyes; and the notion that a significant portion of a community will voluntarily starve themselves to death to enable non-relatives to survive (doing so for the benefit of children is a questionable thing at best, but he goes way beyond that).

There is also a typical prepper worship of military experience, as if that is the only thing that will allow someone to survive and there are no other means to leave survival skills.

I have no interest in proceeding further.
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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by loomer » 2017-11-21 07:37pm

Good to know I'm not missing out on anything by leaving it at just the first book. You're giving me the urge to do a similar write up of Kunstler's World Made by Hand series, which at least holds off on the real political bullshit until the final book.
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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by Raw Shark » 2017-11-22 09:29am

Broomstick wrote:
2017-11-21 07:25pm
There is also a typical prepper worship of military experience, as if that is the only thing that will allow someone to survive and there are no other means to leave survival skills.
In the event of the apocalypse, please make for Colorado with all due haste for maximum survival probability. We are well-armed, close to expansive desert, plain, and mountain wilderness, with a temperate climate with low humidity but free-flowing rivers, and exceptional potential for solar power. And, if you're a prep-wanker, we have kind of a shitload of active and retired military here. And if things get really bad, we could go down to Little Saigon and probably round up a few tens of thousands of unregulars who knew how to handle an AK-47 at the age of 10 and make a damn good pho. Airstrikes would fuck us, if that was still a thing, but otherwise let's play King of the Mountain.

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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by LadyTevar » 2017-11-22 03:20pm

Raw Shark wrote:
2017-11-22 09:29am
In the event of the apocalypse, please make for Colorado with all due haste for maximum survival probability. We are well-armed, close to expansive desert, plain, and mountain wilderness, with a temperate climate with low humidity but free-flowing rivers, and exceptional potential for solar power. And, if you're a prep-wanker, we have kind of a shitload of active and retired military here. And if things get really bad, we could go down to Little Saigon and probably round up a few tens of thousands of unregulars who knew how to handle an AK-47 at the age of 10 and make a damn good pho. Airstrikes would fuck us, if that was still a thing, but otherwise let's play King of the Mountain.
I've heard the same thing said of WV. We'd also have tons of coal already mined just sitting out waiting for shipment (or thieves) and the used up mines can be used for storage and ice-rooms. Once the old folk die off from being unable to get their medicine, you'll have tons of empty houses to loot as well.
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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by Broomstick » 2017-11-22 05:54pm

Raw Shark wrote:
2017-11-22 09:29am
In the event of the apocalypse, please make for Colorado with all due haste for maximum survival probability.
Unless, of course, the cause of the apocalypse was a major Yellowstone eruption... in which case I'm heading east, north, or both.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

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Re: "One Second After" series review

Post by Raw Shark » 2017-11-22 08:29pm

LadyTevar wrote:
2017-11-22 03:20pm
I've heard the same thing said of WV. We'd also have tons of coal already mined just sitting out waiting for shipment (or thieves) and the used up mines can be used for storage and ice-rooms. Once the old folk die off from being unable to get their medicine, you'll have tons of empty houses to loot as well.
Shit, that wouldn't even be remotely probable unless you were an experienced hillbilly, icer, thief, looter, and squatter. I couldn't imagine somone who could thrive in that sort of... oh, who am I kidding? Do you maybe want to reverse the relocation discussion, KK?

"Do I really look like a guy with a plan? Y'know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! Y'know, I just do things..." --The Joker

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