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Directive 51 (A Novel of Daybreak) Mass Market Paperback – February 22, 2011
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About the Author
John A. Barnes has been a journalist, writer, speaker, and television commentator whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Reader's Digest, and America's Civil War. He is currently a corporate communications manager with Pfizer Inc. Mr. Barnes lives in New York City.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
Who cares, really? It's lazy writing and it makes me less inclined to pick up the subsequent books. If it had been excised and better edited it could have been 20% shorter and about 100% better.
1) Why start skimming? Well, this would seem to be an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story. You can usually expect such stories to be filled with drama and excitement as the disaster builds and then hits, tearing civilization apart. In this book, the disaster is in progress as we begin, and all we really see of it is a few low-level bad guys setting their small parts in motion, and that's it. The rest of the disaster is described in dry reports given at government meetings by people giving second-hand descriptions of what happened. The bulk of the story is the rather bland tale of presidential succession, which turns out to be pretty orderly, except for some minor snafus that result in more bland reports of actions off in the country side, and a couple of moments where the more prominent characters in the book do something more than file reports. Yawn. And note that I called them the "more prominent characters in the book" -- there are no real protagonists or antagonists here, just some people who are doing stuff, some good, bad. No villains, no heroes, no highs, no lows, no desperation, no triumphs. No drama. And as hard as it is to believe, the author even manages to make a 250 megaton explosion seem rather dull.
So the action was blah, the characters were a bunch of bureaucrats, and the plot was mainly about some obscure political issues involved in presidential succession. Not a lot to keep your interest level high.
2) Why keep going? The only things I found interesting in the book were the WMD used by the Daybreak terrorists. They were somewhat novel, and I was hoping that the author would have come up with some interesting solutions to the problems they created. I won't say if he did, but ... I won't be buying book 2 in the series, so you can guess the answer to that.
I suppose I should have taken the description of the book more seriously when I was buying it -- "Directive 51" is the title, and that is what it is about, the directive that describes what to do if the normal line of succession for the Presidency is broken. I wouldn't have bought it if I had realized that that was what the book really was about. If you are interested in that kind of thing, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on it, over this book.