“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Probably the two most popular books on Electromagnetic Pulse (fictional)

There are a lot of books out that use EMP as the focus of their plot.

The two that have garnered the most attention are  Lights Out and One Second After.


Lights Out started as a serial novel, available free on the internet.  Crawford would write a bit, then there would be an interval, then he would write some more.  The number of people reading his story grew by leaps and bounds, and eventually a publisher put out a hard copy version. I've read it twice. It's typical of early post apocalyptic literature, in that it could have used some decent editing. The conversation is often a bit stilted, and it isn't as smoothly flowing as most hard copy books produced by a publisher (as opposed to self published.)  However, it's an interesting book and there's a lot of hard, actionable information in it.  If I had any particular facet that I'd say irritated me, it was the painfully obvious attempt to be politically correct. But I suppose you can't avoid that these days.



One Second After also deals with an EMP "Black Swan" event.  It was written by a college professor , and takes place just north of where I am located.   It's a well written book, very smooth and flowing in the story line. The characters are believable, and the story will make you think about some issues you may not have considered prior to reading it.

However, fairly or unfairly,  much of the plot has been alleged by detractors to be derivative of Lucifer's Hammer.   There is a similarity in some aspects of the two novels, but I think that's more to do with the fact that events as detailed in both books are logical. That just means that both authors see certain possibilities to be likely after a catastrophic event, not necessarily that one copied the other.

They're both worth reading if you are interested in EMP.

14 comments:

  1. I own and have read both several times. Of the two I prefer Light's Out if only because One Second hit too close to home with me. When One Second hit the shelves I read it and gave others its title or loaned them my copy with the warning if the female of the house read it to be ready for tears on the pillow. All came back with the fact that, yes she cried. I was one of those on-line readers of Crawford's early work on Light's Out. Never imagined he'd be such a hit.

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    1. One Second is probably the more emotionally gripping of the two, perhaps because it's better written and deals more with the impact on individuals. People seem to really like it, or to be aggravated by it. I'm not sure of why that is. I thought it was a good book, and the fact that the setting is within a half days drive of my place added to my interest.

      As I recall, Crawford was one of the first to write about a catastrophic EMP event . The book came out just about the time Terry's Deep Winter Series was published, and the two sort of fed off each other.

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  2. Anyone who accuses Forstchen of copying LH's story line obviously isn't familiar with his other works. Really it is a whole lot like his "Lost Regiment Series" but without the magical/fantasy sideline. Generally speaking anyway it had the same feel to me. I also got a bit irritated by his obvious New England Collectivist holdover ideas and commitment to the PC cult as well but again he does that in his other novels too so I expected it. Forstchen has a love for civil war era technology and it shows. Sometimes I thought he was going out of his way to make some of that tech fit when another solution would have been better but I would have to read it again for specifics.

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    1. I wasn't aware of his other books. There was a great furor once that I followed but didn't get involved in. It was the suggestion that he copied the idea of the cannibal cult led by a charismatic madman. But I can see that happening, under those circumstances and I didn't necessarily feel that the idea could never be used again by any other author because it was in Lucifer's Hammer. But you know how the internet is, people just love to fight. I saw a poster once that said "Arguing on the internet is like participating in the special Olympics. Even if you win, you are still retarded." That's kind of ugly but it's true.

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    2. Well in his "lost Regiment" series Humans are the main course for nomadic alien race. That's over simplifying it of course and they are pretty good books but the degree he goes in to using humans as food gets almost morbid later on. It obviously is a subject he has thought about long and hard, much more so than any copying of LH would explain.

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    3. That doesn't sound like a book I would get to far with. Cannibalism is one of those things that is pretty ugly. That was the only part of "The Road" I didn't like.

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  3. One Second After was my first book in the 'prepper' genre. It made me get in a higher gear. Several copies were purchased for friends and family.
    It's dark but I prefer the in your face method when I need to be motivated. It's my go to book when anyone shows a shred of hope.

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    1. I enjoyed reading it. I think it was really the first full length novel I ever read that was centered on EMP.

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  4. I just re-read my kindle copy of Lights Out a few weeks ago. One Second After and LH are tied for my favorite of all the TEOTWAWKI I've read. I suppose I like them for the point you have already made Harry, the logical reality of both. LH has good practical info in it, like having people bunk in the greenhouse to make use of the body heat.
    I loan out my OSA book to folks but LH is too hard to come by, only very trusted people get to borrow my copy.

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    1. Is it out of print? I have a good hard copy, I guess I better take care of it. I gave away the Deep Winter series and now I wish I hadn't, but when it comes out on Kindle I will get the first two books again. The third book was just politics and I thought it was not very interesting but I liked the first two.

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  5. I've read them both and prefer LIGHTS OUT. Like the much older ALAS BABYLON, the conversations of the characters of how much we are dependent on electricity working really becomes apparent. As is the 'just in time' delivery of food to grocery stores.

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    1. Lights out is popular. One of the criticisms leveled against it, as with many books written by survivalists, is that it is a laundry list of information. Some people think that facet interferes with the flow of the story. I actually prefer books that give you useful information. I don't just read for entertainment, but for whatever I can glean from the book that I can use.

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  6. As best I can tell the very popular, for its day, Warday, started the fictional versions of the EMP-shtick. One Second After does the amazing feat of putting a copy of EMP research on its web site, and not actually following the results of that research. The Annex that showed the results of EMP on cars (it doesn't permanently knock them out) has since been redacted. Which makes for some very odd disjointed writing for what remains of the research.

    The scientific basis for EMP strikes as stated in fiction is very tenuous. The much more powerful, but rather rare, solar flare issue is another matter.

    If One Second After was a copy of Lucifer's Hammer, than it was a very poorly done job. I shudder to even compare the two.

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  7. I don't think I have ever come across War Day.

    I know the military took EMP very seriously in the 1970's and 1980's, though I can't say what they do about it now. We had shielded communications vans for our long haul HF communications, and fixed communications centers were wired for protection against both EMP and TEMPEST hazards.

    My understanding of the effect on vehicles is that EMP of a sufficient strength would destroy the computer chips found in all new vehicles and render them permanently inoperative until the chips were replaced. Is that not the case? I'll have to say I never read the web site you referenced but it sounds like I ought to.

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