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Review: ‘Five Years After’ – a realistic look at what happens after an EMP disaster

263 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

This end-of-the-world series by William R. Forstchen is eye-opening and a must-read for preppers and survival types.

by Leon Pantenburg

I read the first book in the series “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen,  as soon as it came out in 2011. It scared the hell out of me.

The book was just too realistic, and it read like a news report that was being updated. This is totally opposite of the popular Zombie apocalypse crap approach to societal collapse. It is easy to pass such off such Zombie stuff as silly, unrealistic and bad television. Hopefully, nobody takes that BS seriously.

But Forstchen’s John Masterson series of  books are scary realistic, and they should be taken seriously. The latest in the series, “Five Years After”, takes that post-apocalyptic realism to a new level.

The previous Masterson books tell the story of an ordinary guy, John Masterson, struggling to save his family and their small North Carolina town after America loses a war in one second due to an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), also referred to as a transient electromagnetic disturbance (TED), is a brief burst of electromagnetic energy. The electromagnetic interference caused by an EMP can disrupt communications and damage electronic equipment. This EMP wreaks havoc on most of the former United States of America.

Masterson, a history teacher at the local college, ends up being thrust into the role of community leader in the small town of Black Mountain. The community struggles to survive in a world with no law, electricity, water system and food supply. They have to fight to keep what they have.

A reluctant leader at best, Masterson manages to keep his community together, and the residents work together to maintain their lifestyles.

In “Five Years After” the rest of the America has collapsed into regional city-states or local powers, and the so-called United States government is attempting to keep things together while the rest of the world struggles to stay stable. Into this chaos comes another major problem. The US president is dying from a possible assignation attempt. Masterson is pulled back into the conflict to negotiate with what appears to be a new military order, hidden within the government.

The book is fast-paced and really well-written. It keeps the reader’s interest because it is set in real places, and uses scenarios that are entirely plausible and believeable. The plot explores what happens when society ends, and the shinola just hit the fan.

Survivalcommonsense.com had been up and running since 2009, and I got questions immediately about the reality of the Masterson books. Here is what I found:

EMP threats are real:  The origin of an EMP can be natural or artificial, and can occur as an electromagnetic field, as an electric field, as a magnetic field, or as a conducted electric current.  An EMP such as a lightning strike can physically damage objects such as buildings and aircraft. The management of EMP effects is a branch of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) engineering. (Wikipedia)

The first recorded damage from an electromagnetic pulse came with the solar storm of August 1859, or the Carrington Event.

EMP weapons are already in the hands of our enemies, according to the Defense Informational Technical Center. North Korea has employed non-nuclear EMP weapons to attack South Korea. Designing non-nuclear EMP warheads for delivery by ballistic and cruise missiles is well within North Korea’s technological capabilities. More EMP info

The Masterson books have been discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon.

The Wall Street Journal warns that an EMP could shatter America.

Should you read this book?

I think so. A very common question concerns getting people on board who are lukewarm about the idea of being prepared for emergencies. How do you convince a reluctant spouse, family member or friend that preparedness  is a good idea?

Well, the fires in Maui and the West should have gotten everyone’s attention. And the Texas power grid failure that left millions without electricity during the coldest days of winter a couple years ago should have been a wake-up call. And we are not done with the intense heat that is straining power grids all over the country. And how about those hurricanes?

If these events aren’t convincing enough, try introducing the Masterson series. The books are good reads, and they just might help convince someone who is a borderline preparedness type.

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Leon Pantenburg

Leon Pantenburg

Leon Pantenburg is a writer, photographer, educator, survivalist and wilderness skills trainer. He is the author of Survivalcommon sense.com, a wilderness survival/preparedness website that has been in continuous operation since 2009. Leon is also the author of the best selling “Bushcraft Basics: A Common Sense Wilderness Survival Handbook.”


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