I can remember watching those late night cult films about some giant-sized bug terrorizing the town. It was quite scary when you’re a kid and your perception of reality is limited. Now I realize those movies were popular in the 1950s because the threat of a nuclear war was real with the Cold War in full swing.
Then there was the television film The Day After that aired on Nov. 20, 1983 in which over 100 million Americans watched the initial broadcast of a nuclear holocaust between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was the highest-rated television film in history.
The nuclear horror theme continues with the newly released The Final Day, the third book in a three-part series that tells the story of people regrouping after an electromagnetic pulse or EMP plunges our country into darkness, starvation and death.
The first book was aptly titled One Second After, followed by One Year After – probably because The Day After was already taken. The series has turned military professor William Forstchen into a NY Times bestselling author. Doomsday aficionados and survivalists will rejoice. With our newly-elected President threatening to out-nuke anyone, this book comes out with many thinking the end is near.
But can anyone envision living after a nuclear holocaust?
“Nuclear war would wipe out most of life on Earth, as we know it,” states one nuclear expert. “Humankind and most of animal life would disappear because of the rising dust and smoke and fire of a nuclear mushroom cloud. The sun would be blocked for a significant, long period of time. The Earth would begin to freeze literally. We would not be able to grow food. Radiation sickness would be everywhere. So we’d either die from the radiation sickness, or we’d die from hunger, very quickly. Life on Earth would eventually stop.”
The Final Day picks up after 90 percent of the people in the United States perished, and now, slowly but surely, the horror of those still living is subsiding as the human spirit to fight picks up in a country torn apart by rebellion. China and Mexico now control all territory west of the Mississippi River.
John Matherson and his community restore the technologies and social order that existed prior to the EMP attack. Patriotism plays a big role in this book as Matherson vows to fight a government that knew it was going to be hit by a devastating explosion and first evacuated its own before the rest of the country found out the hard way. “An overwhelming static discharge that could cripple the greatest nation in the history of humanity and leave 90 percent of its citizens dead two years later.”
The picture Forstchen paints of a country in ruin is devastating – the Constitution is no longer in effect, what’s left of the US Army has been deployed to suppress rebellion in the remaining states, and people are trying to restore simple electricity, cell phones be damned!
The author’s grasp of military terminology and logistics is impressive indeed as he bandies about terms and scenarios left and right. You know from reading this book that the person writing this knows his history – especially the Civil and Revolutionary Wars – I believe he specializes in pre-World War I history. He also brilliantly describes the modern weapons and tactics used to fight today.
The book’s description of the devastation is obviously meant for a domestic audience. While the U.S. Civil War was an atrocity many of us cannot fully grasp, there are those living today who have experienced the full devastation of war as envisioned in this book. While Forstchen flippantly refers to Stalingrad, those World War II battles were indeed as horrific as he describes the EMP attack. (People turned to cannibalism to survive the first winter of the Nazi siege of Leningrad.) Over 20 million Russians died in World War II! The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki!
Like Stalin once said, a million is a statistic, one is a tragedy. And so it is here that the author focuses on Matherson’s family, where we feel for the people so this all becomes a real tragedy. I remember that was the devastating effect of the TV movie that focused on a family in Kansas the Day After.
However, Forstchen is not a real novelist. He’s an academic who has written a horror story about a perceived event that could happen in the future and he wants everybody to listen and do something about it. One Congressman swings this book in the chambers saying it’s a must read about this country’s unpreparedness for a nuclear strike.
That’s not to say this is not a well-written book that flows somewhat. It does. It is action-packed and suspenseful. But to do the subject more justice, read up on the threat today, particularly concerning our crazy politicians threatening to nuke the world. First Obama promising to invest $1 trillion to upgrade our nuclear capabilities and now Trump tweeting that we will spend whatever is necessary to protect ourselves. That kind of talk is leading us straight to this type of scenario!
In the book it was Iran and North Korea who handed the nuclear capabilities over to terrorists who launched the EMP over the US. I don’t think reading this novel or listening to our politicians will make us feel any better. Getting all of us to sit down and mutually eliminate our nuclear stockpiles, as was happening during the later stages of the Cold War, should be on everybody’s minds. It’s called preventive medicine, the best shot we got.
By Jim Vail