Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review of "48 Hours," by William R. Forstchen

Review of
48 Hours, by William R. Forstchen ISBN 9780765397911

Five out of five stars
 This is an apocalyptic story based on an extrapolation of facts. Foremost is the belief that the sun is more stable in energy output than it actually is. The reality is that there have been events in recorded history where unusual activity in the sun led to high bursts of energy emanating from it with some striking the Earth.
 The last major event took place in 1859 and was powerful enough to cause telegraph lines to melt. Auroras in more southerly regions were so bright that people could actually read newspapers by them. A British scientist named Richard Carrington made the connection between the powerful solar flare and the effects on Earth. Such an event taking place now would essentially fry most of the electronics on Earth, putting nearly all of society at a standstill. Most, if not all, of the electrical grids would go dark and take months if not years to repair. The latest such energy outburst took place on July 23, 2012, fortunately the main energy of the burst missed Earth.
 The premise here is that solar observations and understanding has developed to a high level with one of the leading experts being Richard Carrington, a direct descendent of the scientist that first attributed electrical anomalies to solar flare activity. He is one of the principal characters and he understands that a series of storms are brewing in the sun that will release energy bursts that will kill all people not heavily shielded if the timing is wrong. His algorithms predict that the fatal energy burst will hit the Earth in approximately 48 hours, hence the title.
 Other primary characters include the American President, a couple in Missouri that have military backgrounds and a National Guard General. In many ways, once the reason for the mass destruction is known to the public, the story proceeds on a path similar to others in the genre. Many people go feral; killing, looting and lighting fires, some seek solace in chemicals, many apply the comfort of religion, others seek out their loved ones to be with them at the last and there are some that do what they can to increase the survivability of the human species. The couple in Missouri embark on an idealistic mission to save as many children as they can in a deep underground cavern.
 This story is well-written and presents the best and worst of human nature. Some people of wealth and power do all they can to secure spots in the shelters and others do not, working to save others until the very last. For people that understand that the sun is only relatively stable and can emit powerful bursts and that the electrical grids are vulnerable to the bursts, this story strikes home. An unbiased analysis of the potential apocalyptic dangers humanity faces would lead to the conclusion that this scenario is the most likely one.
 One feature that could have been added as a prologue that would have set up the story very well would have been a short statement of the recorded events of energy bursts from the sun and their consequences. They are covered in the text but would be more powerful if they had appeared in a factual prologue. Facts presented in a work of fiction are often hard to recognize as facts.

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