Tag: thriller

Directive 51

Directive 51 by John BarnesWell, now that I’ve recovered from the post-election jitters, I have four words, followed by about 400 words:

This. Book. Terrified. Me.

Directive 51 is a grim near-future science fiction thriller charting the disintegration of modern civilization, which segues into a tale of how pockets of survivors in the US draw together and how these new-born factions see their role in rebuilding the US, and what kind of a US they have to look forward to. Honestly, reading this in the early stages of the 2016 election probably made it particularly depressing, but I definitely am taking a break from thrillers and grim stories and tales of disintegration for a while. On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed this book, as uncomfortable a vision as it portrays, and hope to read the next two books in the series someday as well, partly because I want to know how it turns out on the political struggle level, and partly because I want to see how human civilization adapts technologically and societally to the post-Daybreak world.

The book is a series of scenes from many different viewpoints, both from the perspective of Daybreakers and the government agents trying to stop them. At first this was jarring, especially because the first few scenes are introductions that don’t establish a whole lot, but after each character had had a few scenes I had settled into it.

One thing that was very interesting is the depth that Barnes has put into Daybreak and their tactics, strategy, and technology. Daybreak is a fairly interesting concept for a terrorist organization, and the strategy behind it and the general strategy of the Daybreak master plan was very interesting for me. The biological science and engineering practices behind the Daybreak nanoswarm and biotes is also really interesting, and terrifying because it seems so plausible. And in general, the story has a lot of warnings about the dangers a modern globalized capitalistic society poses when it falls.

The title of the book is a little misleading, honestly. You might expect the drama to be about Directive 51 itself. In reality, most of the first half of the book is about Daybreak itself as it is enacted, the middle is about how things disintegrate, and only the very endgame of the book is about the consequences of Directive 51. Additionally, the book can be hard to stick with, as often scenes stretch on for longer than I would like. Definitely read a few pages before picking it up.

Cover Art Review: Honestly, not a huge fan. It’s very washed out, does not convey a sense of place, and it’s not entirely clear which character that is or what moment that is. But it does convey the mood of the book very well, which I suppose is the most important thing.

Rogue Clone

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Reading this book was not fun. The writing was flat and uninteresting, quite possibly intentionally (more later), but that does not redeem it for that. The plot was probably alright, but given some horrific worldbuilding choices that destroyed my suspension of disbelief, it felt very artifical and badly structured, with long stretches of either the main character doing nothing, or secondary characters doing important things.

The main character is a clone who, despite having the capacity for independent thoughts and actions, has no capability for human sentiment. In that light, sure, this particular character’s perspective might be limited. However, that does not excuse a boring, flat, predictable characters, who repeatedly hammers home how flat and inhuman he and other clones are in order to convey his/their emotionlessness. It is quite possible to make emotionless, inhuman characters interesting: a great example of this is Franks in the Monster Hunter International series (which I probably will get around to reviewing someday). Additionally, on top of being boring, the characters in Rogue Clone never seem to be up to much, either traveling towards an objective, not being present while another character does something important, or being present while someone else does something important that hurtles them off somewhere else towards a new objective.

There are some startlingly bad worldbuilding choices: for starters, race has been bred out of humanity. The book’s exposition literally states this. Of course, about halfway through the book, you learn about a Japanese Empire, who emerge from the shadows as one of the sector’s most powerful players. And there is also a separate colony world of Africans (although being neo-Baptists, they are more likely space African-Americans), which are a minor power but play a very important role in the plot. So, despite the fact race has been bred out of existence by intermingling and human society is totally racially integrated… both the most powerful faction and one of the most important factions in the main character’s journey are pure racial enclaves. And in the intermingled racially integrated society, the only character names you see are white western European / American. And the only cultural touches you see are white western European / American touchstones.

Secondarily in terms of worldbuilding awfulness, there seems to have been very little attention paid to connecting technological developments, political events, and societal or cultural changes. For example, the U.A.’s military ranks are made up almost entirely of clones. Yet this is barely touched upon until the end of the book, where it is drawn upon to manufacture a crisis for the book to continue. It’s merely a plot point that shows up once or twice, and most of the worldbuilding aspects are similarly there to artificially prod the book along, rather than to create a place where the characters, institutions, and plot make sense.

This book is apparently the sequel to Clone Republic. Perhaps reading the first book may have been rendered Rogue Clone a better experience, but it seems unlikely.