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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Directive 51 and Daybreak Zero--thought provoking novels!

I finished reading Daybreak Zero last week and, like the previous book, Directive 51, I thought it was an interesting book, nothing spectacular, just an okay diversion. Initially, I wasn’t going to review the books, because they were just a wee bit above average. I went to my Library Thing page and I gave them a 3.5 bookworm rating.

This morning, as I was packing lunches, I realized that, halfway through Mira Grant’s Blackout and a week later, I’m still thinking about Daybreak Zero and Directive 51. Hmm, there appears to be more here than meets the eye. Books don’t usually keep popping into my brain days after finishing them. I’m fickle, and I move on easily. And I’m quite enjoying my current read. So, what is it about these books that my mind keeps working on?

Think of the memes that flood the internet, and how some of them really catch on and go viral. In Directive 51, the author has conceived of a meme that appeals to a large swath of the population, all of whom feel that mankind is the biggest blight on the planet and to save the planet, we must de-populate it as quickly as possible, destroy modern technology and return to an agrarian 18th century lifestyle. Through the use modern technology, (and yes, the irony is duly noted) the “Daybreakers” all over the globe develop nanobots and bacteria that work together to destroy all plastics and manmade materials. They coordinate the release of these materials all over the globe.

Stop for a moment and consider how much of our world is made up of manmade materials, and what would happen to each of us if this suddenly turned into a stinky pile of brown goo. What would happen to people with pacemakers and other implanted medical devices, and our food supplies, our clothing? Nothing would be immune; communication, entertainment, transportation, everything would be affected.

".......Jim Browder rubbed his porcine jowls, shoving so much flesh up toward his ears it looked as if he were about to peel his face off like a bag. “Non-replicating nanotech works just fine in industry, everywhere, these days, and has since the late twenty-teens. Replicating nanotech is a stunt that hobbyists do. It’s not hard to make nanos that make copies of themselves, and it’s not hard to make nanos that do something useful, but so far it’s hard to get them to do both because for any useful, creative purpose, they’d have to communicate and work with each other, and that’s very hard. But if all you want a nanobot to do is make nitric acid whenever it senses that it’s near an electric circuit—that’s what our weapons guys were looking at. They thought it was too unreliable, it would attack our own gear, and you’d never get rid of it once you released it. But if all electric machines are the enemy, forever, I guess that’s an advantage.”

“Why nitric acid?”

“Just an example,” Browder said. “Because you could theoretically synthesize it from air and wouldn’t have to have any other material available. But depending on what they intend to attack, and what they can expect to find near it, there’s at least a hundred other possibilities: fluorine gas, or hydroxide or peroxide ions, or a bimetallic strip that works like a battery. For sabotage, you only need nanoreplicators to reproduce in clusters around something valuable, and excrete a substance that attacks it. Achieving that is down at the college sophomore lab level these days.”

Hannah Bledsoe, from DHS, tall, handsome, dignified, with a deep red dress and pearls that seemed as much a part of her as her soft curly gray hair, looked up from her laptop. “And what are the biotes? Disease organisms?”

Browder grunted. “Sort of, but not against people as much as against artificial materials. The Daybreakers’ genetic-modification stuff that we’ve decrypted so far is all devoted to modifying ordinary decay bacteria, molds, funguses, any bug that eats dead stuff, to make engineered enzymes to break down long chains of carbon.”

Edwards said, “Pretend that some of us skipped chemistry class.”

“A lot of artificial materials—most plastics, for example—and the common fuels like gasoline and kerosene—have molecules that are built around a long, branching string of carbon atoms, with various other atoms attached on the side. The reason they usually don’t decay is because the carbon-carbon bond is fairly strong, and where there’s a long string of them, there’s not much—at least not much that a living thing naturally makes—that will attack the chain and break it into pieces small enough to digest. Basically the biotes are molds or yeasts, bacteria or maybe viruses, that turn synthetic materials and liquid fuels into sugars, fats, proteins—food that rots and spoils.”......"

These are ambitious books, not only does the author give us a dystopian future filled with heroic and human characters, he also tackles big issues. The sanctity of our Constitution versus the malleability of the document. Liberals and conservatives. Environmentalists and capitalists. Survivalists, preppers, hippies, tree huggers, the religious—no one is spared. These are not easy reads; both books took me a while to get through. They weren’t books that I was so absorbed in that I couldn’t stop reading, I only picked them up just before bed and read for a while, and yet, they’ve really stuck with me. I certainly never expected to pick up a dystopian science fiction novel, and suddenly be considering my feelings about the Constitution, politics, the environment and religion. And I certainly didn’t think I’d still be thinking about these books a week later.

I was disappointed when I finished Daybreak Zero that the story is continuing; but not because I felt let down by the story. The second book was heading in an interesting direction, the internet ‘meme’ that started it all, had become an almost sentient being, begging the question, “Is an individual responsible for all the chaos? Are things in the novel as they appear? Or are there nefarious forces at play?” Sigh….I guess I just have to wait and see, but I sure do wish I hadn’t discovered these books until 2013, when Wikipedia says the next book is coming out.

Personal note to the author:
Mr. Barnes, sir, with all due respect…crank it up,….I really need to know how this is all going to end. 2013??!!! Seriously??!! I mean, I like your style, and I’m glad I stumbled across your books, and I’m sure that I’ll now be checking out the rest of your bibliography, but it’s a looooong time to wait.

My rating:
(and I've gone back to my page on LibraryThing to change it!)


bermudaonion said...

Hm, I do like a book that stays on my mind like that. These are outside of my comfort zone, though, so I'll have to think about them.

cheap jersey said...

such a new kind of novel, never see one before!!