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Directive 51 (A Novel of Daybreak) Hardcover – April 6, 2010

3.1 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Daybreak Series

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A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Barnes is a multiple Hugo and Nebula award nominee and the author of The Return with Buzz Aldrin. He lives in Colorado. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From AudioFile

The first in a new postapocalyptic trilogy, DIRECTIVE 51 explores what happens in the United States when there is an assault on the country and George Bush's National Security Presidential Directive 51 is put into effect. Modern technology becomes useless, and the federal government must take drastic measures to maintain itself. Susan Ericksen's performance rides the highs and lows of the plot and the main characters. Her general avoidance of exaggeration in presenting events and personalities serves the book well. She sustains suspense without overdoing it, easing the tension when the plot focuses on mundane details. Her facility with accents helps depict subtle regional differences. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Series: A Novel of Daybreak (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; First Edition edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044101822X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441018222
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,682,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My thirty-first commercially published novel came out in September 2013. I've published about 5 million words that I got paid for. So I'm an abundantly published very obscure writer.

For readers who are wondering where to start with my work, the most common suggestions are Orbital Resonance, A Million Open Doors, Mother of Storms, Encounter with Tiber, or Tales of the Madman Underground. However, almost no one likes all five of those books--I write a wider range than most people read--so you might want to flip a few pages before buying. My most popular have been Directive 51, Mother of Storms, and the two collaborations with Buzz Aldrin. My 3 most popular series begin with A Million Open Doors, Directive 51, and Patton's Spaceship. Nearest my heart are probably One for the Morning Glory, Tales of the Madman Underground, and The Sky So Big and Black. And the most fun was had in writing Gaudeamus, Payback City, and Raise The Gipper!

I used to teach in the Communication and Theatre program at Western State College. I got my PhD at Pitt in the early 90s, masters degrees at U of Montana in the mid 80s, bachelors at Washington University in the 70s; worked for Middle South Services in New Orleans in the early 80s. For a few years I did paid blogging mostly about the math of marketing analysis at TheCMOSite and All Analytics. More recently, I covered advanced technology, especially space, stories in the Government section of Information Week.

If any of that is familiar to you, then yes, I am THAT John Barnes.

I have also become aware of at least 72 Johns Barneses I am not. Among the more interesting ones I am not:
1. the Jamaican-born British footballer who scored that dramatic goal against Brazil
2. the occasional Marvel bit role who is the grandson of Captain America's sidekick
3. the Vietnam-era Medal of Honor winner
4&5. the lead singer for the Platters (and neither he nor I is the lead singer for the Nightcrawlers)
6.the Australian rules footballer
7. the former Red Sox pitcher
8. the Tory MP
9. the expert on Ada programming
10&11. the Cleveland-area member of the Ohio House of Representatives (though we're almost the same age and both grew up in northern Ohio) who is also not the former member of the Indiana House that ran for state senate in 2012 (one of them is a Democrat, one a Republican, and I'm a Socialist)
12. the former president of Boise State University
13. the film score composer
14. the longtime editor of The LaTrobe Journal
15. the biographer of Eva Peron
16. the manager of Panther Racing (though he and I share a tendency to come in second)
17. the British diplomat (who is not the Tory MP above)
18. the conservative Catholic cultural commentator (now there's an alliterative job)
19. the authority on Dante
20. the mycologist
21. the author of Marketing Judo (though I have an acute interest in both subjects)
22. the travel writer
23. the author of Titmice of the British Isles (originally published as Greater and Lesser Tits of England and Ireland, a title which I envy)
24. the guy who does some form of massage healing, mind/body stuff that I don't really understand at all
25. the corp-comm guy for BP (though I've taught and consulted on corp-comm)
26. the film historian,
27. the Pittsburgh-area gay rights activist (though we used to get each others' mail)
28. the guy who skipped Missoula, Montana, leaving behind a pile of bad checks, just before I moved there
29. the policeman in Gunnison, Colorado, the smallest town I've ever lived in, though he busted some of my students and I taught some of his arrestees
30. the wildlife cinematographer who made Love and Death on the Veldt and shot some of the Disney True Life Adventures ("Hortense the Presybterian Wombat" and the like) or
31. that guy that Ma said was my father.

And despite perennial confusion by some science fiction fans and readers, I'm not Steve Barnes and he's not me, and we are definitely not related, though we enjoy seeing each other and occasionally corresponding (not often enough).

I used to think I was the only paid consulting statistical semiotician for business and industry in the world, but I now know four of them, and can find websites for about ten more. Statistical semiotics is about the ways in which the characteristics of a population of signs come to constitute signs themselves. It has applications in marketing, poll analysis, and annoying the literary theorists who want to keep semiotics all to themselves and spend their time studying individual signs and the processes around them in very deep detail. It also shouldn't be confused with computational semiotics, which was about how software could parse complex signs to communicate with humans and other software. Just to make it a bit more confusing, both statistical and computational semiotics are being gradually subsumed into natural language processing, which in turn seems to be being absorbed into data science. Someday all universities will just have a Department of Stuff and that's what everyone will major in.

Semiotics is pretty much what Louis Armstrong said about jazz, except jazz paid a lot better for him than semiotics does for me. If you're trying to place me in the semiosphere, I am a Peircean (the sign is three parts, ), a Lotmanian (art, culture, and mind are all populations of those tripartite signs) and a statistician (the mathematical structures and forms that can be found within those populations of signs are the source of meaning). Recently I've begun working on a certificate in Data Science for pretty much the same reason that the Scarecrow needed a diploma and the Lion needed a medal.

I have been married three times, and divorced twice, and I believe that's quite enough in both categories. I'm a hobby cook, sometime theatre artist, and still going through the motions after many years in martial arts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead

I was really looking forward to reading Directive 51 after it was mentioned in the Atlantic's article re: cyberwarfare. I'm a sucker for end-of-the-world scenarios and I'm usually profoundly disappointed with their execution (2012, I'm looking at you). This book, sad to say, was no different.

The premise is interesting and had real potential for making a gripping novel about the end of the modern era and how people would cope with a disaster that wiped out everything we relied upon for the functioning of our society. Unfortunately, the characters you have access to are emerge relatively unscathed from the disaster and you are therefore not really exposed to the breadth and depth of the horror.

The book focuses almost exclusively on the members of the federal government charged with forecasting future threats, who then become the heads of state when the disaster takes hold. As such, they aren't really affected by the loss of power, of food, of clean water, of all modern conveniences. The book references entire cities burning to the ground, millions dying of starvation during the winter, thousands freezing to death while fleeing cities... but those events are presented when the main characters present "reports from the field" to other members of the government. You get no on-the-ground experiences of what it's like for people actually living through the event. The members of the government are cloistered in protected compounds with supplies of power, food and water. You're totally detached from the "reality" of the situation for 99.999% of the Earth's population and, as such, it's snooze-ville for disaster enthusiasts.

In addition, the plot itself suffers from a lot of weak spots.
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3 Comments 64 of 74 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Barnes' novels have a tendency to tackle big ideas. It's hard enough to tackle one big idea in a novel (e.g., Vernor Vinge's "zones of thought" in A Fire Upon The Deep, or the nature of reality in Greg Egan's "Permutation City"), but Directive 51 takes on three: how the Internet can amplify emergent behavior to a level never before seen in civilization, even developing self-reinforcing mechanisms (this is a variant of the Meme War idea in some of his earlier books); a new take on the perils of technology (there are some very scary "what ifs" here); and an interesting take on continuity of American government and the fragility (or ultimate stability) of our Constitution. He does a fine job in teeing up these ideas and exploring them, but it seems almost too much for a single book, with the result (as other reviewers have noticed) that the characters lose out. I found that there were only a few whom I actually cared about (hint: they were not the Daybreakers), yet they got insufficient page count to really flesh them out. If this book is the first of several, then it may come off better as an introduction to the subsequent novels than standalone.

Despite the flaws, I found it an enjoyable (albeit scary) read precisely because of the ideas.
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Format: Hardcover
In Directive 51, the author raises some really interesting ideas but they're buried in a bog of uninteresting and redundant back-and-forth about constitutional and line-of-succession questions. There's a lot of what feels like filler here- perhaps that's because this is apparently the first installment in a trilogy. The reader is left feeling at a curious distance from the action; yes, tens of millions of people die, but it mostly happens "off-screen" and the whole catastrophe seems rather clinical. As I said, John Barnes does get at some provocative issues, such as the possibility that our line-of-succession process could leave us with an incompetent, elderly senator as our President. There are hints that the Daybreak event may have been engineered by forces not of this Earth- guess we'll have to wait for the sequel to see if that's the case. Would I buy Book 2 in hardback ? Nope- not unless Barnes avails himself of the services of an excellent editor first.
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Format: Hardcover
Used for exposition. None of the conversations sound natural at all. They are always explaining. Boring scientific-like explanations of what was going on.

Yet I admit I could not put this down and read it in two days. But that's because you can skim it. There is little in the way of substance.

There are moments where it is interesting enough to keep you hooked. But no follow through. Then too much drama. I was ready for the resolution to begin when the EMP thing came up. Just too much. Start to resolve things already.

With Graham as the 50th President, and it is 2024, I got distracted by how many Presidents there were and noticed that the author made sure Obama was not re-elected in 2012 (must have been if Graham was the 49th President, 50th is you can Shuansten, or whatever his name was).

Unmemorable characters. Did not care about any of them or what happened to them or even what happened to the world. So much disaster you'd think that to write this, you'd have to really hate the world and especially the US.

The whole word was attacked and disposed of, except Australia, totally forgotten - until the last few pages when the silly EMP destroyed radio in Perth. But the author forgot about that continent before that, and so modern civilization would still have survived there.

The high points were some interesting points about the Constitution and the secession. Only Democrats handled it, and badly, of course. I would have been more interested in President Norcross, who inexplicably became all perfect and dropped his right wing Christian nation stuff. I thought it would have been more interesting had had been allowed to remain President and then turned out to be that Jesus freak after all - trying to impose a theocracy. Oh well.
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