In the survival industry, books generally fall into two categories: non-fiction “how to” textbooks, and the fictional novel.
Within the world of fictional survival novels, there are two types of authors: those who write actual stories, and those who write “how to” books disguised as stories.
That both books delve into a world in which America reels from a massive electromagnetic pulse attack, and our political and military leadership acts honorably during the recovery, is about all the readers will find in common from these two writers.
The goals for Forstchen and Thayer are as different as the setting and tone of the novels.
Both books offer an important opportunity for bloggers and online retailers by vividly illustrating the real possibility and danger of an EMP attack, and by highlighting critical preparations and materials required for every citizen, every business, and especially every government official responsible for the safety of a community.
But what makes this pair of books truly compelling from a business point of view is the idea that one author literally challenged the other.
Forstchen’s“One Second After” is great fiction that served as a wake-up call for millions of people in 2011 regarding a real threat, while Thayer wrote ‘One Second After… in San Diego” in 2015 as a rejection of Forstchen’s story arc.
That Thayer is blunt about his rebuttal in the book’s Forward and on his Amazon page is compelling on its own. And while these books offer different points of view, they actually complement one another, and both should be required reading for every American.
Science fiction and survival fans already know about “One Second After.” It reached the number 11 spot on the New York Times Best Seller list, was cited on the floor of Congress “as a book all Americans should read,” and has been credited for educating countless government and community leaders about the very real threat of EMPs.
“One Second After” is the story of John Matherson and his struggle to survive a sudden and dangerous change to his way of life in the small North Carolina town of Black Mountain. It’s a classic man vs. man / man vs. nature struggle in which Matherson must protect his family and his home from desperate people and starvation.
Matherson lives in a small rural town that, like the vast majority of territory in the United States, doesn’t have a massive military base nearby with all of its resources to help restore some semblance of normal civilization.
Moreover, while there are numerous lessons to be learned by reading “One Second After” (that Forstchen takes seriously), lessons aren’t the point of the book. For instance, Forstchen doesn’t detail key elements of survival, such as how to recognize and prepare the edible plants his characters eat or the proper tactics his heroes devise for the epic battle.
The key drivers of this engaging, character-driven story are the natural tension caused by the struggle inherent in a massive catastrophe and the exploration of the emotions surrounding the loss of Matherson’s loved ones intertwined with the introduction of a potential romance. Most compelling, though, was the exploration of the protagonist’s grief over not being prepared in any way.
Obviously, Forstchen’s town of Black Mountain does not expect or receive much help from the government, and that scenario shapes the decisions of his characters.
On the other hand, Thayer’s rebuttal, “One Second After… in San Diego,” is driven by the author’s vision of a massive and effective military and government agency recovery effort. Like most “how to” fiction (such as James Wesley, Rawles’ “Patriots” series), Thayer’s book combines a solid storyline with teachable moments and settings that convey detailed information designed to instruct about actions and products.
Thayer’s rejection of Black Mountain’s decision to be self-sufficient will strike some as indicative of a fundamental problem with modern America. Many believe our towns and cities should be able to survive without “big government” coming in to save the day.
However readers fall on that issue, Thayer’s “One Second After… in San Diego” is still a compelling story with critical lessons for every American.
In his 2015 investigation, “Lights Out,” media icon Ted Koppel reveals that every secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged the likelihood of a massive cyber-attack on the nation’s electric grid. But not a single one has bothered to devise a plan for the nation’s recovery after such an attack. Should we believe there is an EMP recovery plan sitting in a government file somewhere?
This is where Thayer’s “how to” story becomes extremely relevant.
Set as a series of after action reports by various military and police department leaders, Thayer wants his readers to know how the military and first responders likely would, and should, react if the U.S. is subject to an attack that takes out communications, transportation and critical utilities such as water and electricity.
Like most books of this type, he deviates from the pure fiction writer by sacrificing emotional texture in exchange for a clever “how to” theme. His goal is to keep the story compelling while driving the reader forward in an educational manner. On those fronts “One Second After…in San Diego” delivers. It is a terrific guidebook on how communities should consider their reaction to this very possible scenario.
“To recover from an EMP attack, the whole country has to pull together to restore water, food, communication, transportation and other essential services,” Thayer writes on his Amazon page. “In this book, the EMP attack is told from the point of view of San Diego, California. The military, specifically the Navy and Marines, take the lead in starting the recovery in San Diego. The military has two huge advantages over Black Mountain. First, they are organized. Second, their equipment is designed to be radiation hardened which will withstand an EMP attack. However, the military is not trained to restore water, food, transportation, power, healthcare and other services. They have to learn by doing and improvising. This book describes some of their problems, successes and failures.”
On these points, Thayer is probably correct. Areas with large military bases likely will fair better in a good-faith government-run EMP recovery.
However, critics will rightly point out that very few cities or towns enjoy a relationship with a major military presence like San Diego. Most don’t even have a measurable National Guard presence that could sufficiently respond to a major catastrophe.
But frankly, these kinds of details are not necessarily critical in the grand scheme of these two important books. Each book should play a key role in promoting self-reliance and prudent preparation.
The bottom line for bloggers and retailers is that the combination of the two books offers a great opportunity for review and comments, and sales promotions. Both novels are available on the Amazon Kindle app and in paperback. “One Second After” also is available in hard cover.