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Directive 51
John Barnes
Narrated by Susan Ericksen
Brilliance Audio, 21.5 hours

John Barnes
John Barnes was born in 1957. He received his BA and MA in political science from Washington University, then worked as a systems analyst and in various kinds of computer consulting, mostly reliability math and human interfaces. He received a dual Master's degree (MFA English (Writing), MA Theatre (Directing) from the University of Montana in 1988. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh (Theatre Arts) in 1995; his specialties were performance semiotics and design/tech. From 1994 to 2001 he taught theatre, rhetoric, and communications at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. He now lives in downtown Denver, writing and consulting fulltime; he may be the only paid consulting semiotician in the world, since he has not met or heard of any others. He has been married and divorced twice, which is quite enough for anybody.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: In the Hall of the Martian King
SF Site Review: The Duke of Uranium
SF Site Review: One for the Morning Glory
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Apostrophes & Apocalypses

A review by Gil T. Wilson

Directive 51 All you cyber-junkies, technophiles and just about anyone enjoying today's modern comforts, enjoy them while you can. If John Barnes's novel 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, threatening not only our creature comforts, but 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. 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, where there are so many factions that want things to change in America.

Now picture that on one day, all these groups get together and "attack" in their own way, all at the same time. Throw into the mix a Muslim terrorist group that has secretly infiltrated this domestic movement, and you have a terrifying scenario. Set slightly in the future, John Barnes creates some nasty domestic weapons used by the Daybreakers. For example, they've developed nanoswarm, a weapon made up of tiny microscopic robots that attack electronics. Carried along in the wind, they destroy cars, computers, mp3 players and anything electronic. Now add 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, all this happens, along with the kidnapping of the vice president. Before long, both military and governmental structures begin to deteriorate, much like the ubiquitous plastic products. The author uses turnovers in government and the struggle of Americans to make societal reforms without the use of technology to examine American politics, culture and society.

This story 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 with 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 here 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. A great combination of social commentary, political debate and science fiction are worked into Directive 51.

Copyright © 2011 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.

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