Monday, May 21, 2012

One Second After - An Anachronistic Cold-War Agenda?

One Second After is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel by William Forstchen, where the continental U.S. is hit by an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP), which instantly sends hundreds of millions of people back to the 19th century. It is rather surprising that a simple phenomenon of country-wide electric shut-down can cause such a huge damage, but when you read the novel, it sounds all too plausible - we are that dependent on electricity. The novel is well written in two aspects - one, the description of the post-EMP world is so touchingly real and persuasive, and two, the human drama is mind-numbing enough to make you think about the very nature of our existence and co-existence. Especially, I would like to recommend two scenes: the one with a girl soldier who dies holding John's hand after being triaged out, and the one where Jennifer, John's daughter, dies. The scenes are more riveting because the style of the narration is rather hard-boiled.

However, the novel reads too much like a Cold-war era propaganda against enemies of the state. John the protagonist and several others repeatedly say "But, this is America." For example, after describing kids who developed pot-bellies because of hunger, John reminisces seeing kids with pot-bellies in countries in Africa and Asia, but then he adds, "but, this is America!" Is child starvation in America qualitatively different from that in other parts of the world? (It is, actually, because it is fictitious, after all.) The novel is strewn with self-centered egotism deeply rooted in the protagonist's mind. For him, America is different, Black Mountain is different, and her daughter Jennifer is different. On top of that, the foreword to the book makes the whole thing sound like a Republican propaganda.

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