Directive 51
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Directive 51 (Daybreak #1)

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  949 ratings  ·  189 reviews
View our feature on John Barnes’s 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 t...more
Hardcover, 483 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Ace (first published March 31st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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"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...more
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...more
Sarah (Tail-Kinker)
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...more
Dana Stabenow
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Iain Brown
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...more
Jerome Statema
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
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...more
Richard G
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.
Apr 23, 2014 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Lianne Burwell
If you are a fan of Dies the Fire (SM Stirling), you will probably enjoy this book. If you are a fan of books covering the collapse of civilization as we know, you will probably enjoy this book.

Set in 2024, a not very organized conspiracy around the world has come to fruition. In an attempt to destroy 'The Big System', and return the planet to a supposedly idyllic more primitive version of history, loosely connected groups around the world have created nanoviruses and biotes that will destroy pl...more
Sep 09, 2013 Joe rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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
Jason Taylor
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...more
Susan Paxton
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
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
Patrick Gibson
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....more
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...more
Some exceptional concepts unfortunately obscured by a somewhat muddled plotline, lacking in cadence. Not nearly as good overall as some of Barnes' previous novels. A criteria for measuring a genre novel as literature is whether the reader would be as well off with a 10 page plot synopsis....sorry John. One the upside, although it is neither good nor bad Hemingway, and not even good Clancey, it's good enough for standard technothriller pulp, and on the beach or on the plane, that's often good eno...more
Bruce Baugh
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...more
Ron Johnson
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...more
I listened to this book in my car. I almost gave up on it halfway through the first cd. By the end of that disc it finally piqued my interest and I stuck with it. (if I had been reading this book and not listening to it, I absolutely would have given up). In the end, it was just awfully long. Too long. Not entirely impressed.
This book was maddening. Some parts of it were really good. Others dragged on forever. The whole book had the feel of setting up the rest of the series. I will probably give the next one a chance but it won't get much of a chance. This felt like a near miss.
Chris Aylott
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...more
Despite this series being overly potboiler-ish, I keep reading because I've been interested in Barnes' past books that concert "mental memes" that control the behavior of large groups of people, and I'm curious how "Daybreak," which seems like a similar concept, fits in.

Also, it's kind of a quick-summer-read sort of book -- I'm not usually a skim-for-plot kind of reader but this book rewards that -- but despite the big cast of characters and often sentimental delving into their often not-that-i...more
I have mixed feelings on this one, as shown by the middling rating (though I'm probably a fairly low grader anyway).

This reminds me of nothing as much as Stirling's Change series: a world where technology ceases to function. In Stirling's books the reason for this is some unspecified mystical or alien event - essentially it's irrelevant, just an excuse to describe a world reverting to a medieval state. Barnes takes a different tack, and much of this first book is a description of the science an...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robert 'Rev. Bob'
My biggest complaint about this book is that the first 120 pages should have been more like 60 or 70 pages. Far too much time got spent showing us Daybreak-prep in detail, and that made the book take much too long to get into. The VP's story was a necessary component, but there was too much Random AG Action for my taste. Frankly, I'd rather have seen much of that material get spun off and expanded (with some non-US stories!) for a supporting anthology...but I digress.

Once Daybreak really started...more
Brett's Books
Maybe I am just reading too many of these books but I didn't enjoy the intricate political thriller/apocalyptic novel Directive 51. Out of all the books on this subject that I have read, this novel is probably the most realistic. I think the author, John Barnes, makes a good faith attempt to map out how honest, faithful, civil servants would act to attempt to preserve constitutional government in the face of a complete collapse of our telecommunications infrastructure. However, I found same dedi...more
A reasonably satisfying 'back to nature' apocalypse scenario, with some interesting meditations on modern social movements, some detailed and disturbing scenes of plausible destruction, some entirely IMplausibly coordinated and executed terrorist attacks, and interesting and well-thought-out scenes of American life returning to (roughly) the 1850s.

The entire novel is a plot-delivery system. Most of the characters are archetypes or ciphers, people created to fill a plot function. Barnes does an a...more
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Daybreak: yay or nay? 5 6 Aug 28, 2014 11:02PM  
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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...
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