Directive 51

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Directive 51

In the first of a planned trilogy of post-apocalyptic stories, veteran sci-fi author John Barnes takes an interesting premise—what would happen should Directive 51, the United States’ ultimate chain-of-command plan should everyone in the presidential line of succession be killed—and sets it against an intricate “Daybreak” plot of eco-terrorism aimed at destroying modern society.

The book sprawls from one end of the country to the other, divided into pre-, mid- and post-Daybreak sections as it follows a group of characters on both sides of the political fence. Pre-Daybreak moves a bit slowly as Barnes tries to introduce an intricate plot, a huge cast of characters, and the biologically engineered microbes set to destroy modern society by melting plastic, corroding anything electrical, and generally short-circuiting our high-tech future.

The story picks up once Daybreak finally hits and we begin to see the physical, social, moral and political fallout as people lose the ability to mass-communicate, physically move from place to place with ease, and govern themselves from afar. Thrown back to the 19th century, pockets of people begin to ferret out the old ways of getting news distributed, people fed, and communities organized.

The book strays off-course in a few places, however, and leaves a couple of bothersome holes.

It gets downright preachy at times—in one or two spots, it feels as if the author is inserting himself into the narrative to take a few potshots at Democrats and offer up a diatribe on the miserable  human condition.

The book also jumps so quickly from location to location, from character to character, that it’s hard for a reader to really get invested in what happens to them. In the end, there are nice scenes where the country starts pulling itself together, but it takes a lot of hard reading to get there.

There’s a major subplot that never seems to get resolved. A Middle Eastern terrorist organization is using the disorganized events of Daybreak to take advantage of the chaos, stealing the Vice President’s plane and murdering him on a live Internet feed. How are the events connected? And if Daybreak is a worldwide phenomenon, how about some info on how it’s impacting things outside the U.S., at least before communications break down?

Maybe the questions get answered in book two, as society rebuilds—maybe with a few less sermons.

Book Blurb for Directive 51

The first book in a new post-apocalyptic trilogy from "a master of the genre"

Heather O'Grainne is the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Future Threat Assessment, investigating rumors surrounding something called "Daybreak." The group is diverse and radical, and its members have only one thing in common-their hatred for the "Big System" and their desire to take it down.

Now, seemingly random events simultaneously occurring around the world are in fact connected as part of Daybreak's plan to destroy modern civilization-a plan that will eliminate America's top government personnel, leaving the nation no choice but to implement its emergency contingency program...Directive 51.

Night Owl Reviews May, 2010 3.50