OK, so I’ve seen the reality shows about preppers and I always thought they were a little crazy. Prepping for what? The zombie apocalypse seemed highly unlikely, and even economic collapse didn’t seem likely the way international support works these days.

Well, One Second After answered that question for me in a big way. Without giving too much away, the premise is that an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) hits the United States. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the important thing is all modern electronics manufactured after a certain time period stop working, unless they have been protected from EMP, which hardly anything is.

The protagonist has two daughters, which I do as well, albeit his are a little older. I hadn’t been reading for too long before the story really got inside my head.

If it happened while I was at work, how would I get home? I was so off my game I couldn’t even think how to get home, since I usually catch the train (which wouldn’t be running), and I wouldn’t have a phone, or a GPS, or anything, and it was only when I told my husband I would have to follow the train tracks that he reminded me of course I know the way—I do drive to work from time to time. Oh yeah.

But I would still have to walk. That’s a two, maybe three day hike, depending on weather, terrain, supplies, and my general stamina. I can do that, no problem, and I have my runners at work, so I have appropriate footwear. If it’s winter, though, it could get chilly overnight. And there’s a big tunnel on the M5 Motorway, a big, dark tunnel, on account of there being no lights. Maybe I should be keeping a big torch at work?

And then assuming I made it home, would anyone else be here? Where would my kids be? Would they have been at school or at home with their nanny? And if the latter, what would she have done when the power went out? OK, that doesn’t even bear thinking on…

So, assuming I am home, what does that mean and what do we need? I already know how to filter water. I can grow food. I know the potatoes in the cupboard say “not for growing”, but they do sprout. Maybe I should plant one and see what it does? What about meat? Well, I can handle animals, but no idea how to hunt, slaughter or butcher anything. Maybe I should Google it, print it, and keep it somewhere….

Transport? Well, no cars, but there’s a horse agistment place down the road, and I can ride. I even have my own horse gear in the garage—two bridles, one saddle, two halters, two leadropes, a few other bits and pieces. Note to self: prioritise riding lessons for the girls. I should probably pack the lunge rein too—who knows how long since the horse has been ridden, depending on how fast we get there, and whether the horse we grab has been ridden regularly or not.

Well, OK, so maybe my imagination got carried away—unsurprising, since I am a fantasy author. But my main point is the book is compelling, it crawls inside your head and it makes you ask what-if. Maybe I’m not a prepper just yet—but I am wondering what basic survival skills I need that I don’t have!

Check the book out. Here’s a little more about One Second After by William R Forstchen:

The story of one town’s survival over the course of a year, after attacks on the United States and parts of Europe leave much of the world in chaos. Nuclear weapons exploded in the upper atmosphere above the U.S. create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that wipes out all electronics – in one second. Electrical outlets, cars and trucks, internet, phones, television, refrigeration — things we take for granted in the 21st century — no longer work. Food becomes scarce, as do life-saving medicines and other staples of modern life.

John Masterson, a college professor in a small North Carolina town, works with the local police to organize his neighbors, ration available food and other supplies, and create a local army to guard the town’s borders against the increasingly violence of roving, desperate bands. Terrible decisions involving life and death come in to play as the country falls into chaos. Masterson and town leaders struggle to keep their own people alive in the midst of this escalating nightmare.