Kirsten Reviews: The Last President by John Barnes
The Last President by John Barnes
An author who “excels at combining the tension of the chase with the elements of science fiction,”* John Barnes delivered a fascinating and frightening scenario about the collapse of America’s political and social infrastructure following the destruction of modern technology. Now, the author of Directive 51 and Daybreak Zero continues his story of the wild postapocalyptic frontier—and humanity’s last desperate attempt to re-civilize their world…
For more than a year, Heather O’Grainne and her small band of heroes, operating out of Pueblo, Colorado, have struggled to pull the United States back together after it shattered under the impact of the event known as Daybreak. Now they are poised to bring the three or four biggest remaining pieces together, with a real President and Congress, under the full Constitution again. Heather is very close to fulfilling her oath, creating a safe haven for civilization to be reborn.
But other forces are rising too.
Some people like the new life better...
In a devastated, splintered, postapocalyptic United States, with technology thrown back to biplanes, black powder, and steam trains, a tiny band of visionaries struggles to re-create Constitutional government and civilization itself, as a new dark age takes shape around them.
The Last President: A Novel of Daybreak by John Barnes is the story of an apocalypse in the very near-future. A life form known as Daybreak has set off biological weapons, as well as EMP bombs, which have decimated any oil or oil-based products, with the intention of destroying any and all technology. As if that wasn’t enough to cow humanity, many of the survivors are now being controlled by Daybreak, and have formed anti-technology militias, or gangs, and now attack anyone who is not part of their group.
Those not under the influence of Daybreak seek to try and rebuild the world, and more specifically, the United States. That’s where Heather O’Grainne and the community of Pueblo Colorado come into the story. There are additional groups in New York, Georgia, San Diego, as well as other locations, where people have found ways to fight off Daybreak.
The followers of Daybreak are easily compared to zombies, and a great deal of the story’s action involves fighting off these groups, and there is quite a lot going on top of that to keep the story moving. At times it feels like very slow going, and some moments of triumph and survival are earned, while others feel as if they’re fighting to be significant in the face of so much plot and what is at times, exposition that is more smothering than it is helpful. Instead of giving readers so many glimpses of different communities and introducing a large range of characters, time and pages would have been better served by focusing more on a few of them at a time in greater detail.
All told, the writing and ideas are not weak, but the universe Barnes has created is so complex that it feels as if it needs a great deal more room and narrative to breathe.
(Received a copy from the publisher)