In the aftermath of an electromagnetic-pulse attack linked to Iran and North Korea that wiped out American cities and led to the installation of an oppressive, unconstitutional government, hard-core patriot John Matherson is called upon to lead the resistance.
The eastern half of the U.S. is "a twisted, burned-out, perverted wasteland." The ruling forces, having been thwarted in their efforts to conscript an oppressive Army of National Recovery, are on the verge of handing over large chunks of territory out west to China and Mexico. Matherson, based in a mountain community in the so-called "State of Carolina," must decide whether to trust his old friend and commanding officer Bob Scales. Once the most principled of leaders, Scales now is in charge of suppressing old-school patriots like Matherson in the name of assimilation. Matherson, who has overseen inspired efforts to restore technology in his community—amazingly, those old, cobwebbed computers still work—represents a threat to the status quo. Having suffered grievous personal losses in the nightmarish conflict, he is prepared to fight for the America he loves, even if that means abandoning his new wife, Makala, who's pregnant. Like its two predecessors in the Matherson series, this new novel entertainingly blends folksy and sophisticated, small-town nostalgia and sharp futurism. Ultimately, though there are many exciting scenes, this is less a post-apocalyptic thriller than a book of ideas: a thoughtfully rendered, richly detailed investigation into the "What if."
The latest installment in Forstchen's dystopian series will be best enjoyed by those who have read the first two books, One Second After (2009) and One Year After (2015). But with its agreeable protagonist and nicely drawn settings, the novel quickly draws us in.