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Directive 51 (Daybreak #1)

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  1,290 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 483 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Ace (first published March 31st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,772)
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Aug 20, 2011 Steve rated it did not like it
First of all, I usually enjoy the 'end of the world' disaster type books (Dies the Fire, Armageddon's Children) and movies (Mad Max, The Day After Tomorrow, Resident Evil) but this one I found unbearable. The premise was solid, but the characterization was awful.

The author was obviously politically far right, which is fine, as a few of my favorite genre authors are quite conservative politically (S.M. Stirling, Brad Thor, possibly William R. Forstchen), but all of his characters were so far to
Sep 06, 2011 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
"It's the end of the world as we know it..."

In Directive 51 John Barnes sets about destroying civilization as we know it and then examining what it would take to put the world back together again from those various pieces. In 51, the end of civilization is brought about by a fringe group that one day decides to release a nano-virus plague that feasts on much of our modern technology, rendering it useless. It can also eat the rubber in tires, thus removing the automobile from the equation as well
Dana Stabenow
Jun 23, 2013 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Iain Brown
Feb 20, 2012 Iain Brown rated it liked it
Directive 51 is an entertaining end of the world - or at least, end of the contemporary technological world - novel. It requires more suspension of disbelief than most near-future sci-fi thrillers, but it's generally worth the effort.

I felt that the central characters seemed quite weak until about halfway through the book, at which point they began to grow much more interesting as individuals (continuing to grow in the sequel). Politicians especially seemed shallow, and as "Directive 51" is a po
Jun 20, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this twist on the post-apocalyptic story for the most part.

A sort of collective-consciousness "system artifact" movement called Daybreak spreads the idea of taking down "the Big System" i.e. modern toys and technology. The novel mainly focuses on how the Big System begins to fail by following the actions of multiple characters (some Daybreakers, some not) and detailing how each comes to learn of, fights, or accepts the havoc Daybreak has broached upon the world.

In a way, the Daybreake
Richard G
Feb 09, 2011 Richard G rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
pretty much a waste of ink but i suppose the daybreak people would be delighted. too many abbreviations. i can't shake the notion that, that seems a cheap trick to sound high tech or slick with no substance.
Dec 04, 2014 Marcus rated it did not like it
What started as a good idea on the storyboard, probably that is, lost itself between then an publication.
The premise of a terrorist attack is nothing new, yet right from the beginning the book seems more like a first draft than something ready for print.
The use of exact times, rapid switching between locations, and the divisions between 'chapters' served no purpose in the actual timeline. Knowing that at such a time in the pacific the same thing was going on at 3:02 PM in DC exactly made no im
Apr 23, 2014 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Democratic pretenders, Strong-jawed Republican statesmen, nanotech-spreading anarchists
This book was something of a disappointment. I really enjoyed John Barnes's YA space opera Losers in Space, and I generally enjoy apocalyptic scenarios, and this is a smart, contemporary one, in which nanotech run amok is what ends civilization. Dubbed "Daybreak," Barnes describes interestingly the vast conspiracy that brings it about, bringing together disparate groups of anarchists, environmentalists, Muslim terrorists, rapture-ready Christians, Marxists, and everyone else convinced that the S ...more
Chris Aylott
Mar 11, 2014 Chris Aylott rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this one better than I did. It's a solid premise, and I dig both techno-thrillers and disaster novels. I'll even cheerfully ignore the caricatures of steel-jawed heroes and slimy politicians that traditionally inhabit this kind of story.

However, I also want the disasters to make sense, both on a technical and a human level. Directive 51 succeeds on a technical level -- the nanomachines and bioweapons portrayed seem chillingly possible -- but I don't buy into it at all on the hu
Kristin Lundgren
This is a densely packed techno thriller. It is the first book in a trilogy, so not all questions are answered. It reminds me in many ways of Kim Stanley Robinson's 40 Days of Rain. It is densely populated with a large cast of characters, from the people who helped bring about this end of civilization, called the Daybreakers, to the politicians and government types that make up the DC world. Most of the book is focused on the government - how it reacts, what department's do, succession questions ...more
Sep 09, 2013 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
I learned about Directive 51, the first book of the Daybreak trilogy, from a Big Idea post in John Scalzi's blog.

The novel is an apocalyptic work where the failure of technology leads to the collapse of civilization. Recent works in the genre include One Second After (America brought down by electromagnetic pulse), Dies the Fire (which I haven't read, though where the cause is magic-like), and TV's Revolution (nanobots).

Daybreak is in the "grey goo" technological terror sub-genre, using a combin
If Barnes had stopped writing at the end of Part Two, this would have gotten a solid four stars from me. Up until that point, I was really engrossed, carrying the book with me pretty much everywhere. And then ... oh dear. No.

Directive 51 explores the always-fascinating "it's the end of the world as we know it" concept. This time the harbinger of doom is an association/event called Daybreak, which is sort of hazily described as a loosely-connected ideological movement, connected through the inter
May 16, 2010 David rated it liked it
I'd been waiting quite a while for the next John Barnes novel. I'm a big fan of his Giraut and Meme Wars series, so when I saw the description of this novel I was a bit nervous as it seemed to be more of a mainstream thiller, rather that the hard-SF I've liked of his. The premise is interesting and the "attack" (quotes are meaningful here) takes some time to evolve, but that is part of the journey. There is a large cast of characters that we leap around to follow and some I found less interestin ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Jerome rated it it was amazing
This book has planted itself at the top of my list of favorite Science Fiction books. I will admit that this list doesn't have many books, as SF has never been my favorite genre, but I'm glad I picked this one up. It's one of the better-written books I've read in quite some time. It was a long 500 pages (inasmuch as the type-face was small), but it flowed very well. I became engaged in the lives of the characters, and I was happy that he showed them, even the ones that should have been good guys ...more
John Carter McKnight
Apr 24, 2010 John Carter McKnight rated it it was amazing
Apocalypse as alternate reality game/meme complex: it's a terrifyingly plausible and contemporary idea, and Barnes puts it to excellent use.

With a very short term focus (the book covers the first six months after a decisive blow to the "Global System," Barnes avoids many of the tired tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre: no warlords, descent to barbarism, blah blah blah. He tells the story of the perpetrators and survivors - civilians and the remaining government officials, trying to preserve w
Susan Paxton
Feb 06, 2012 Susan Paxton rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
Well plotted but highly irritating book written by a wingnut for wingnuts. My first clue as to the political persuasion of the author came when I realized that this book, set approximately 20 years in the future, made absolutely no mention of climate change (which makes the desire of the earth-firsters to destroy civilization seem mysterious at best). Farther in, it becomes obvious that conservatives and Constitution-worshipping Republicans are heroes (1 character actually has children named Tra ...more
Tim Hicks
Aug 20, 2016 Tim Hicks rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
There are chunks of this book that are quite good, and some interesting ideas are presented. But there are just so many things wrong with this book.

I don't care if Barnes is a right-winger. He doesn't try to hide it and it has a minor effect on the overall story.

Comments follow, Loaded with spoilers, you were warned.

Shaunsen. Wow. Anticipating Trump by five years, Barnes produces a total wacko who slithers into the presidency. But really, he was just so silly I laughed several times. Jar Jar
Anna Louisa
Feb 02, 2015 Anna Louisa rated it really liked it
The earth is populated by thousands of unhappy people; disaffected government conspiracists, rabid ex-greenpeacers, scientists and grocery store clerks. In this novel, they are all united with one goal: take down the man. Big system is the cause of all unhappiness, from GMO's to fascism. One day is designated to be the end, the operation is "daybreak" and the end result is the destruction of life as we all know it. Whatever the ideology behind the hatred, the web of conspiracy is very effective ...more
The earth is populated by thousands of unhappy people; disaffected government conspiracists, rabid ex-greenpeacers, scientists and grocery store clerks. In this novel, they are all united with one goal: take down the man. Big system is the cause of all unhappiness, from GMO's to fascism. One day is designated to be the end, the operation is "daybreak" and the end result is the destruction of life as we all know it. Whatever the ideology behind the hatred, the web of conspiracy is very effective ...more
Ron Johnson
Apr 30, 2014 Ron Johnson rated it liked it
I only came across this title serendipitously, discovering the book had been left behind by the previous traveler on the plane I boarded for San Francisco with my wife for Spring Break. It isn't the sort of title that I would normally read, and not in my wheelhouse at all when it comes to genre. However, I found myself not only the prisoner of the Southwest Airlines flight 413, but a prisoner of the action packed adventure which accounted the demise of technology, and life as we know it.

The acti
Feb 26, 2014 Mhairi rated it it was ok
Originally published at Mhairi Reads

Set in mid 2020's USA, Directive 51 opens with protagonist Heather O'Grainne investigating a social phenomenon known as 'Daybreak'. Made up with people from all walks of life and beliefs, united by their desire to take down what they call the 'Big System', Daybreak is about to become a terrible reality. With civilisation rapidly collapsing as biotes and nanoswarm devour anything plastic or electronic, the US government struggles to minimise the damage and main
Bruce Baugh
Feb 03, 2014 Bruce Baugh rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this a lot. I read John Barnes' work for genuinely fresh takes on interesting ideas, and for characters and social situations that embody interesting perspectives on how we humans work. He delivers here.

This is a disaster story. In 2024, widely distributed, very motley group of people sharing the conviction that modern society just plain needs to go manage to bring it down, with the help of biological and nanotech weapons, among other things. Most of the characters are people in
Rebekah (Silver Lily) James
May 10, 2010 Rebekah (Silver Lily) James rated it did not like it
This book is definitely geared for the techno-babble reader. Presenting a doomsday scenario where an undefined group has determined to wipe out the "big system" by creating nano technology that destroys electronics, plastic and apparently, synthetic rubber, as in tires. The premise is that the group responsible isn't organized but rather is made up of people who just talked on the internet and spotaneously decided this would be the right thing to do worldwide. They also managed to coordinate wor ...more
Bruce Henderson
Sep 27, 2012 Bruce Henderson rated it it was ok
I gave up on this book after getting about halfway through it. The author's political biases read loud and clear. This is usually a complaint by conservatives about what they perceive to be liberal biases in matters read, but this one is even more blatant in the other direction. Children named after Ann Coulter, enviros presented as very stereotypical and therefore a facade of real people, Republicans in the Washington establishment packing heat and knowing how to use it, by God!, libertarians i ...more
Ketan Shah
Sep 08, 2014 Ketan Shah rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read somewhere that the difference between techno thrillers and true science fiction is that techno thrillers bring us to the edge of a great change and then have some Jack Ryan or James Bond type save us before the 'big bad' tech is unleashed. Directive 51 starts as a techno thriller then goes all the way as it shows us what life is like after an event known as Daybreak . Man made materials such as plastic as well as all fossil fuels are devoured by nanotech swarms leaving mankind bereft of a ...more
Nov 28, 2014 Slingshot rated it it was ok
I liked the premise of this book but the execution was left a bit lacking. The story and action carried me halfway through this book but then I had to force my way through the rest.

It started to dawn on me that I constantly felt the author was cutting away right before the really interesting stuff was happening and returning after it had happened. It is not the author's fault that I don't like multiple story lines or the point of the view of the "mind of the killer". I kept imagining the author
Jason Taylor
May 11, 2011 Jason Taylor rated it liked it
It was kind of slow. This book seems pretty similar to S.M. Stirling's "Dies the Fire" in that the modern world is suddenly taken away. The destructive force behind the chaos in "Directive 51" is a bit more believable. However, a person who is not at least fluent in science isn't going to get most of the explanations. I think the characters are kind of lame and the dialogue is weak.

That said, the novel is on the brink of being very good. There is definitely a mystery about the source of Daybrea
Apr 27, 2011 Natalie rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Overall I enjoyed it, and am interested in reading the sequel because I like the scenario that Barnes has set up. The characters are one-dimensional and forgettable - Heather is billed as the main character (in the synopsis, so perhaps this was publisher's license) but unfortuntely she is bland. All I remember about her is her tallness, which is referenced far too many times to be natural. The dialogue is so far removed from actual conversation that it's laughable, but it does communicate the sc ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Joshua rated it it was ok
I suppose this book is definitely one of those “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tales. I adore politics. It’s one of my particular fascinations in life. So when I heard about Directive 51, a political thriller set in a post-apocalyptic United States, I figured it would be like Revolution, a show I loved. The reality didn’t exactly turn out that way. It sort of ended up that way, but not precisely.

One of the biggest problems I had with this book was the very nebulous nature of the threat
Patrick Gibson
Aug 27, 2014 Patrick Gibson rated it it was ok
Shelves: the_apocalypse
This book starts with such an interesting premise but the idea quickly veers off into a personal political soapbox for the author. Not the typical right/left harangue, but more of an American freedoms and line of succession issue. The last third of the book is devoted to this issue leaving the interesting parts of the techno thriller part to flounder and falter.

It's not really a disaster novel, since it focuses so little on the actual disaster. That was refreshing in the first part of the book.
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Daybreak: yay or nay? 6 11 Sep 02, 2014 03:15PM  
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John Barnes (born 1957) is an American science fiction author, whose stories often explore questions of individual moral responsibility within a larger social context. Social criticism is woven throughout his plots. The four novels in his Thousand Cultures series pose serious questions about the effects of globalization on isolated societies. Barnes holds a doctorate in theatre and for several yea ...more
More about John Barnes...

Other Books in the Series

Daybreak (3 books)
  • Daybreak Zero (Daybreak, #2)
  • The Last President (Daybreak, #3)

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“I’ve got ten thousand ducks quacking and waddling, with one deluded chicken that thinks it’s a duck in the middle. I think it’s a flock of ducks; Cam thinks it’s a malign conspiracy of chickens.” 1 likes
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