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

3.1 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Daybreak Series

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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.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

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 (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Botsford on April 12, 2010
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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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: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book looks not at the apocalypse from the standpoint of the "after" but during the happening. And, more to the point, from how the government tries to keep itself and the Constitution functional during and after the immediate crisis is over. Billions of people are dying, and the focus is on how the Federal government is supposed to keep functioning through this to preserve the Constitution and the structure of "who is in charge" to pick up the pieces.

The way the apocalypse happens is well thought out, and reasonable. The group that spawns disaster is not a major player in this book; but the hints of what and how it managed to do this are well done.

A lot goes on behind the scenes in getting the government folks who dominate this book up to speed on what Daybreak used to start the disaster and how they can keep something running (for a while), but the focus of this is how a real directive could play out in a real crisis.
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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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