One Year After is a post apocalyptic disaster novel and a direct sequel to One Day After, a New York Times bestseller in 2009. I have not read the earlier book. My introduction to William Forstchen's writing was way back in 1983 when I read and enjoyed his first science fiction novel, Ice Prophet, the first book in a trilogy and you guessed it, a post apocalyptic story set well into the future. One Year After however is fully rooted in contemporary times.
One Year After is an everyman story, set in an ordinary town, whose characters could be your neighbours. The titular leader of the community is John Matherson, ex-soldier, professor, husband and father. There is a folksy air to the whole thing that is quite refreshing. No over-the-top heroics. McGuyverisms or any other larger than life exploits that so often underscore post-apocalyptic tales.
Recovery from the huge EMP attack that destroyed the country's technological infrastructure is in its infancy and the community emanates a renewed sense of optimism until a newly reformed government intrudes and begins to disrupt their progress with calls for a military draft that could devastate their hard-won security and rebuilding efforts. John has doubts and concerns about their intentions which only grow as events unfold.
The narrative relates the personal stories of many of residents, their losses, their strengths and hopes for the future, creating familiar context that binds the reader to this community. They struggle with re-learning pre-electronic technology to restore basic human services. No one has all the answers. No hats. No rabbits. And not everyone gets a happy ever after.
Tension and a degree of paranoia is created and sustained because of the towns isolation from lack of communication ability. Other than some infrequent BBC World broadcasts on old equipment, they know very little about the state of rest of the country. The new federal government administrator is sketchy and cloaks most information behind a "need to know" wall and is surrounded by hostile troops of the new ANR (Army of National Recovery). "Requests" are made and then demands. The novel starts out at a leisurely pace and builds quickly to crisis, action and conflict and ultimately a limited victory.
Forstchen brings this chapter in the lives of the people of Black Mountain, North Carolina to a satisfying conclusion but events clearly dictate a further continuation of the story. I quite liked this smaller stage, the ordinary people and their extraordinary efforts and sacrifice. John as a history professor often quotes from history and in particular Winston Churchill. I think if you could ask the fictional John Matherson to describe what mattered most for Black Mountain he would quote this from Churchill, “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” That is the essence of their struggles.
One Year After is recommended as a solid entry in the post-apocalyptic ouevre. It stands fine on its own without the need to have read One Day More, but likely you will want to know the whole story..