cover image Five Years After

Five Years After

William R. Forstchen. Forge, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-85456-8

Forstchen’s dull fourth postapocalyptic thriller featuring army veteran John Matherson (after 2017’s The Final Day) doesn’t take long to run out of steam. Five years after a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack knocked out power in the U.S. and led to the country’s dissolution, the New Republic of America, headed by President Robert Scales, is trying to reunite the fragmented nation from its headquarters in Raven Rock, Pa. Dying of cancer, Scales calls on his friend John Matherson—the republic’s nominal VP, who’s been running a college in a nearby small town—for help. Matherson takes a meeting with Gen. Joshua Lawrence at the Raven Rock facility in Scales’s stead, only to learn that Lawrence is running a better-supplied operation to seize control of the country. Lawrence hands Matherson a letter for Scales, demanding the New Republic of America’s unconditional surrender to Lawrence’s forces within 48 hours. The prospect of a violent civil war isn’t the only peril Matherson has to grapple with: a short time later, he learns that a deadly virus, rumored to have originated in China, has reached local shores. Two-dimensional characters and a ridiculous denouement make Forstchen’s vision of the future difficult to swallow. Readers intrigued by the premise would be better served by Elliot Ackerman and Adm. James Stavradis’s 2034. (Aug.)