Book Review: Directive 51

I have been pouring through some survival manuals recently and as I read them I was thinking, OK this is good Best John Barnes novelstuff.  Each book has its own unique flair and that is due to the writer’s own experiences.  I always learn something from a manual and always receive a reminder of stuff I haven’t thought about in a while.   When reading fiction novels of apocalyptic nature, the message is more about how other people are coping with an issue, that can really get the mind flowing and analyzing your stored knowledge.  At least that is how I rationalize spending hours reading fiction.

By Pineslayer, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

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So without further buildup I want to introduce you to The Daybreak Series or as written on the cover, A Novel of Best John Barnes BookDaybreak.  I stumbled across “Directive 51” while going through the thrift store shelves, never heard of it, but the cover pulled me in and the journey began.  About 100 pages in I was hooked and then discovered that it was only part one, found number two on Amazon, bought it to have it waiting in the wings.  At the same time discovered that number three in the series was due out later that year, 2013, so I tried to slow down in my reading, fail.  It was a painful 6+ months, the story is that good.

What is Directive 51?  Simply put it is the succession of executive power within our government should the SHTF.  Here is a link to explain it further (click here).  I know Wikipedia has some detractors, but I find it a good place to start at times.  Why is this significant?  Because in this book the S has HTF and we are talking grid gone, maybe not coming back.  Our government has been decimated and leaders are scrambling to fill the void.   All the chaos that we would expect occurs, but the reason that everything has collapsed is too small to see and too small to fix.

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Nanotechnology is progressing at breakneck speed, from medical research to nano-particles to makes things Nanotechnology could kill ussmaller, smoother, and cheaper.  The jury is out on whether the nanoparticles already in use, will have any lasting health issues for us, one more thing to worry about.  The potential for good is at least as great as the potential for disaster.  Maybe our downfall won’t be a big meteor or volcano or war, but our fear of a virus or pandemic may take the form of a man made robobug.

The truly scary part of this novel is that you can really see how this could happen.  What  happened? Glad you asked.  Someone has designed Nanomites that seek out petroleum based products and consumes certain polymers within destroying the item or more accurate, turning it into goo.  Think about all the items in your world that contain such petro-products.  Plastics are stuff that nations are built on, not to mention fuels, computer parts, rubber.  This someone or terrorist state stages a timed release around the world, it doesn’t take long for the little buggers to spread.  When they exhaust their food supply, they fly off in search of more, never quitting, never satisfied, endless replication.

Also Read: Patriot Dawn – The Resistance Rises

So now you know what has occurred, let’s talk about the human aspect.  In America the nation splits into many factions, a Southern religious region, a West coast region that is overseen by various Rulers in their castles, a large contested area in the middle, a decimated East coast, and a tribal Great lakes region.  Every imaginable faction sets up shop and tries to influence the rebuilding.  The government is virtually gone, but a group holds on to Directive 51 and tries to put things back together.  Military figures and civilian leaders vie for legitimacy, no one trusts the other, so not much different that now maybe, but the stakes are much greater as the plot will teach you throughout the series.

The World is going through the same problem, but most of the story revolves around the United States.  The book has many lines of intrigue, Who started this?  Why?  Rumors and facts abound, but the reader is left to decide for themselves as to where the blame lies, until the third book.  That really is not as vexing as it would seem, since the buildup to it is gripping and will have your mind concocting various scenarios, which in my opinion is the way a good novel should be.  In a story such as this, that makes you think about what is to come and what set things into motion, Directive 51 jumps from times to locations and keeps you engaged in the ‘how the hell did this happen’ storyline.

So here is my pitch as to why Directive 51 is a relevant read.

  1. Our technology based society is very fragile.  We rely on food, water, power being transported from thousands of miles away.  And not just from here in the United States
  2. Most people are not capable of fending for themselves for more than a week.  The old saying is that we are only 9 meals away from anarchy.
  3. There are evil people out there who want it all for themselves and will do anything to have it.

That last one is what really scares me.  Agenda 21?


The cast of characters is all over the place, but blend well with a core group that the book chronicles. Imagine being thrown back into 1860 tomorrow with limited warning.  Telegraphs, steam powered railroads, printing presses and digging your gardens by hand, that is where these books take you along with an enemy who seems to still have technology and is trying to knock down everything you build back up.

This series made me look at my preps from a different angle.  What if the grid went bye-bye and couldn’t be john_barnes_the_last_presidentrebuilt?  Those batteries we are storing would be good for a couple of years, but at some point we need to make candles, I need to learn more about making torches too.  This story is about long term survival with an enemy that wants you dead and you don’t know why.  The third book ends with a twist that could be the ending or could start another series.  Book 3 is titled “The Last President” and it is as ominous as it sounds.  I would rate these books up there with the best survival fiction books to date.  I have yet to read the “299 Days” series, but they are on my short list.  So as usual I don’t give much away here as far as spoilers, just a general overview of what you are getting into.  After about 1400 pages total, I can’t think of anything I would change or didn’t like about the story.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Photos by:
John Barnes
ITS Tactical

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Directive 51”

  1. I doubt I will read these but your write up is tantalizing and did strike on a subject that had me concerned and is nanotechnology.

    It is not that I am spouting some conspiracy theory I had consider this for a long time and thought that if asbestos and other elements can cause damage and cancer to the body then why not very small particles ?
    I remembered about black lung disease associated with coal miners working in dust choked mines.
    So in time could this be the next generations black lung or asbestoses scenario ?

    Our bodies can absorb a lot, but the natural is what the body has some defense against an innocuous element may reside or combine with body fluids like stomach acid and in small amounts not be harmful but in in incremental and increasing doses could it be a contaminant or a bridge or blockage to one of our biological systems ?

    I know that aircraft have fibers on the leading edge of aircraft had warnings that it contained arsenic and to avoid contact.

    Much of this is fascinating and may be a huge benefit to mankind and not being a knee jerk reactionary I just want to know if it is a problem and are companies watching out for their employees and using proper precautions.
    so we are not repeating the mistakes of asbestos and other elements we later found to be hazardous.
    Just a thought but I think a valid one.


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