Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Directive 51" By John Barnes

"Directive 51"
By John Barnes
Read by Susan Ericksen
Produced by Brilliance Audio
approx 21.5 hours

All you cyber junkies, technophiles and just anyone enjoying today's modern comforts, enjoy them while you can, because if John Barnes new novel "Directive 51" is a glimpse into our future we could easily find ourselves flung back to times where technology doesn't exist. "Directive 51" takes a look at an America where terrorists, both foreign and domestic all attack at once and not only are the creature comforts threatened but so is the Constitution of the United States of America.

The year is 2024 and many factions are tired of America's slothfulness and reliance upon technology. This time they all band together in a movement called Daybreak and bring not only America but the world to its knees. Think about this in today's political world, there are many factions of those that want things to change in America. You've got the potentially violent militias, KKK, and other political factions such as; the tea party movement, Greenpeace, PETA, and many more. Now picture that on one day all these groups got together and since the big picture was to bring down the government and big business they all "attack" in their own way, all at the same time. Throw into this mix a Muslim terrorist group that has secretly infiltrated this domestic movement, all at once and our government would be scrambling, not knowing which side the enemy was hitting from. Being slightly set in the future John Barnes has created some nasty domestic weapons that these Daybreakers use. Weapons such as nanoswarm, which are tiny microscopic robots that attack electronics using the parts to reproduce the swarm and get carried along in the wind destroying cars, computers, mp3 players and anything electronic. Next we throw in a bio weapon that destroys plastics and other man made compounds reducing them to a smelly pile of mush. That would definitely put a hurt on today's society.

In "Directive 51" this happens along with the kidnapping of the vice president. As the plane is hunted by the military, the nanoswarm and plastic eating biotes are wreaking havoc on the system. The V.P.'s plane is found flying back in to the U.S. through the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and just as the plane is being tracked Daybreak strikes again taking out the radar systems on the west coast. The plane is loaded with a super powerful nuclear fusion bomb and headed to the final game of the World Series in Anaheim, California. Before the plane reaches it's destination it is shot down over the California desert, killing the V.P. (if he weren't already dead.) This devastates the President who was lifelong best friends with his V.P. and the President loses his mental faculties and resigns. This is where the governmental structure of America begins to deteriorate much like the plastics.

In searching for the next successor the turmoil begins. The actual next successor is not a natural born citizen so, according to the Constitution cannot hold the office, the next in line is a senator that has been around since the 1970s and is a cantankerous liberal Democrat. He immediately begins promising jobs soon and not listening to the reports of food riots, violence and the deteriorating infrastructure in America, instead he rides around in a limousine and makes promises. Thanks to technology getting destroyed by Daybreak, the only form of mass communication is a newspaper set up by a woman that remembers the days of newspapers, but when she begins supporting the Republican candidate in her paper (yes it is also and election year) the acting president sends his newly formed special group of guards to arrest her and cease the operations of the newspaper.

This book goes on with many more turnovers in the government while at the same time Americans are having to struggle and reform without the use of any technology. Just when you think the book is about to come to a peaceful "happy" ending, the author throws another wrench into the works. Such as 5 strategically placed fusion bombs which destroy Washington D.C. and the new government, and Chicago, Jerusalem, Shanghai, China and most of Europe.

This book takes what is best about the U.S. Government and people and puts them to the test, showing that the culture can survive but it is not easy. Even through a possible civil war it is the Constitution that keeps America alive. John Barnes shows this extremely well in what can be called a thinking man's sci-fi novel.

The reader, Susan Ericksen, has a tough job in reading this one, but she pulls it off beautifully. I've listened to other audiobooks read by Ericksen and have always been amazed by her ability to create many different characters with her voice and in this book she carries on with that same talent. Each character is given their own vocal qualities and not only does it make it easy to discern who is talking or thinking but also Ericksen makes the vocal qualities match the personality.

This novel will have you entertained, enlightened and constantly thinking about society and politics. Great combination of social commentary, political debate and sci-fi are worked into "Directive 51."

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