The Last President (A Novel of Daybreak)
by John Barnes
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781937007157
Date: 03 September 2013 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Last President by John Barnes takes place in a post-apocalyptic world with the United States divided. A group named Daybreak has destroyed everything modern and is threatening to take over the US. Three separate groups and numerous small fiefdoms are working together, but with their own agendas, to restore the United States.
The Last President takes place in 2025 after a movement called Daybreak has destroyed the modern world. I am going to be different in this review and start with the opinion rather than the summary. I really enjoyed The Last President and I was surprised by the ending. It is the third novel in a trilogy, which by itself is not bad; however I had a whole lot of trouble starting with this novel. It was so difficult that I had to go on Amazon and read the reviews from the first two novels. I recommend that you read the whole trilogy. It has a lot of interesting things to offer.
More on the plot of The Last President…the United States government has collapsed. Previous battles with Daybreak launched nuclear attacks that destroyed all the major cities in the US and caused nuclear winter, so that even sunny and fun San Diego has snow. Biotes were launched that destroyed all synthetic materials and EMP blasts destroyed all electronics. The Daybreak movement controls most of the middle of the country but three major groups are left from the former US that are working together to restore the Constitution. They plan to hold an election in 2027 and reestablish the United States.
The first group is in Pueblo, Colorado, the second in Athens, Georgia, and the third in Olympia, Washington. The three groups have their differences and infighting, but they are all working toward the common goal of a restored United States. They work together to mount a warfare campaign to attack the Daybreak's holds in the center of the US. The Daybreak groups are varied. The leaders of Daybreak look like anyone else, except for their extreme devotion to their God. The Daybreak worker-bees are called "tribals", and they are about the lowest form of humanity possible. The Tribals live by hunting, gathering and pillaging. Daybreak uses them to fight their wars and does not care if they survive.
The three groups attempting to restore the US launch a warfare campaign up the center of the US from the South and the combined Army fights tribe after tribe. The Army does well for awhile, but then comes up against a force that gives them trouble. Daybreak has an offshoot group living out of the part of the US that used to be Indiana. They are the Reformed Daybreak. They share most of the wishes of Daybreak, but believe much more in the rights of the individuals and make life much better for the Tribes under their care.
As the war progresses, the plot unfolds further and I was honestly surprised at how the novel ended. There are other groups around the US that I also found interesting. In the remains of New York City, a former West Point Cadet runs an empire. A family that happens to own an ocean-going boat is a big influence in the New York Area. Another group is in the Caribbean, and of course Texas has its own cavalry.
I enjoy reading apocalyptic novels for the ways they make me think. The Last President gave me lots of things to think about. One of the generals in the Pueblo Group talks about warfare, and how wars before modern times were fought in the summer due to weather. That makes me think of George Washington and his soldiers wintering at Valley Forge. It is not a difficult concept to grasp, I just never thought of it before. Lack of plastics makes things interesting too. Human ingenuity is able to develop workarounds, such as airplanes that have linen tires. It is interesting to see the parallels to what we see in politics today. They have religious fundamentalists along with the moderates, but even the fundamentalists have splinter groups that believe in some of their things but not all. The three major groups that are trying to restore the US certainly have their own favorite candidates for president and their own grudges for things that happened in the past.