Category Archives: Barnes, John

The Last President by John Barnes

Book:  The Last President by John Barnes

This book is the third in the Daybreak series, which is about a semi-apocalyptic future after a terrorist mind virus destroys modern technology.

The Last President by John BarnesIt sounds fantastical, and I suppose it is in ways, but one of the best characteristics of this book is how the author makes all of it sound very real.  Using dates, times, and locations, he spins a book grounded in realism with some tech talk to back it up.

The problem though is that it is a little bit boring, tedious.  I didn’t care all that much about the heroes of the story and there were so many details that I felt like I really wanted the story to get good most of the time.

(I listened to the book, didn’t read it, so that might play a part in how “boring” it was.  When you are commuting to work you want to be really sucked in by the story so time just flies by, whereas when reading a book you can afford to take in a few more details, going at the pace you want to, simply reading faster at times.  It’s just different, and hard to explain.)

All those details about time, location etc actually enhance the realism of the story, but they also up the boring factor.

This series is pretty complex and Barnes does create a distinct world for the reader to stay grounded in, even if there are too many details which bog down the pace.

One more strenuous compliment to the story: strong female characters.  I would say almost half of the main characters are female (at least the good guys).

In the last post I explained that environmentalists are the bad guys, the ones who get taken over by the mind virus and endeavor to kill everyone on earth in order to let Mother Nature take back over. This was a theme to the extent that at the end of the first two books we equate environmentalism with terrorism.

There is more to it than this.  The mind virus spread easier to some people than others, those with a certain level of beliefs and opinions and principles, depending on how strongly they adhered to those beliefs.  You’ll have to listen to the book to really understand, although I don’t know if I could say right now that I really understand even at this point.  It’s as if it the mind virus has a mind of its own and this is where the “realism” is weakest.  (He explains where the mind virus comes from at the end of the book but I won’t spoil it.  It’s a weak explanation, like it was thrown in there to satisfy unanswered questions.)

The author attempts to explain why the environmentalists got this virus but doesn’t do a very good job of it.  In this third book a character points out, finally: “Daybreakers aren’t environmenalists.”  But the connection is too strong to be broken at this point.

I don’t really recommend this book unless you are starved for material.

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Daybreak series by John Barnes

Books:  Directive 51 & Daybreak Zero by John Barnes

Directive 51Directive 51, the first novel in the Daybreak series, is set in a semi-post-apocalyptic future (the year 2024) when a conspiracy begins called Daybreak that results in the crippling of high technology all over the world, sending survivors back to the equivalent of the 1800s.

Daybreak Zero is the 2nd book in the seriesDaybreak Zero and it continues the saga of the people left after Daybreak.  The heroes, mostly people trying to create a new federal government, battle the “tribes” who are brainwashed by the Daybreak mind virus.

I have to be honest.  I considered quitting this series while on the first book.  It has so many details and dialogue about things that are not important to the story.  It moves slow… we are forever living out Daybreak day, October 28, 2024.  Kind of like a TV pilot, the first book sets the stage with important details of the story but is filled with characters we are not familiar with, and there are a lot of them.

Some of the characters were people who contributed to quite a bit of death and suffering; we are hearing their rationale.  This is effective, and I have to admit that probably my favorite characters of the whole story fall into this category.  I love a bad guy turned good.  He or she is just misled, misinformed, brainwashed, and it’s always heart-warming to see them get turned around.

The “bad guys” are Gaia worshipers, essentially environmentalists gone bad.  And there are thousands or millions of them.  Their actions result in billions of purposeful deaths.  Their goal is to essentially eradicate the human race in order to allow Gaia to rebound and continue on with nature in its original form, to erase man from the earth.

The idea of environmental terrorism seems somewhat popular lately.  I really enjoyed The East, a 2013 movie about a woman who infiltrates a terrorist group on behalf of a corporation.  In The East, the main characters were richly created, the writer gave them depth and we see that wonderful mixture of “good” and “bad” that audiences are fascinated with.  In the Daybreak series, the author has made the environmentalists mindless zombies.  That might work well for his story line about a mind virus but it’s kind of a cheap shot and frankly seems overtly political.

Environmentalists are generally very loving and caring people.  In fact, they care too much, including about human lives, human suffering, animal lives, animal suffering… and yes, trees sometimes too.

So to make environmentalists the bad guys in this book the author is essentially demonizing them.  This does not jive with any sense of reality as I understand it and with all the other rather realistic aspects of this story this doesn’t pass muster.  More on this series in the next post…