I have searched here and googled with no result. I can't remember the name of the author. I think it begins with a B. I can't remember the name of any of the books, nor the name of the series. It's something like Day Zero or Day One but googling that is not helpful. I read these books in about 2010. I am sure the series is not more than 20 years old.

In these books, a radical underground group develops a bacteria that eats all the fuels and plastics. They release it on the world with the intention of killing most of the world's people, to arrive at a "sustainable" population of about, I think, 100 million. Civilization comes to a halt. Any technology that escapes the "plague," as I think it's called, has rocks thrown at it by a catapult on the moon. Steam power works. The US government falls apart and has two rival governments, one in Colorado Springs and one in Atlanta, I think. Eventually the two governments agree to disagree on how to run the former USA. There is quite a bit of intrigue and politics.

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    When did you read this? Any idea about any of the cover art, or at least colour?
    – DavidW
    Nov 3, 2021 at 20:08
  • reddit.com/r/printSF/comments/a4ontx/… might be useful to browse.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 3, 2021 at 20:27
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    @DavidW Thank you. I omitted that and I edited the question.
    – Wastrel
    Nov 3, 2021 at 21:43
  • @FuzzyBoots Thanks, but it wasn't any of the ones mentioned there. It was a series of 3 books and there was a catapult on the moon that threw rocks.
    – Wastrel
    Nov 3, 2021 at 21:46

4 Answers 4


Sounds like Daybreak Zero by John Barnes. A trilogy that follows the destruction of western civilization by plastic/hydrocarbon eating bacteria and attempts to keep the federal government going. The group in Colorado Springs sends out pamphlets on how to do things like leatherworking. One of the characters was dependent on medical equipment that used plastics so there was the suspense of how long he could keep the gear working and contamination free.

There was also some weird mind-control stuff mixed in, if I remember right.

Additional confirming data from Wikipedia, including the noted Lunar weapon system:

The Daybreak plague strikes, and world governments are helpless to deal with it. Industrial civilization rapidly breaks down, and tens of millions die in the U.S. alone (the global death toll measures in the billions). There is a presidential succession crisis. Just as society in the U.S. seems to start stabilizing, previously placed pure fusion weapons detonate, destroying Washington, D.C. and Chicago. This is followed by additional pure fusion weapon strikes, which are determined to be weapons that are being created on the Moon by nanotech replicators.

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    "Daybreak." Thank you. I had completely forgotten. I had even tried the local "Ask a librarian" service at the public library.
    – Wastrel
    Nov 4, 2021 at 13:29

Possibly Ill Wind by Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason, 1995.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A big, near-future disaster novel straddling the border between science fiction and technothriller, likely to appeal to fans of both. Anderson and Beason (coauthors of Assemblers of Infinity, 1993) begin with a huge oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The oil company decides to deploy an octane-eating bacteria, crossbred from two naturally occurring species, but the cure turns out to be worse than the disease: While scientists who bred the new bug swear it cannot spread beyond the spill, it contaminates gasoline in the tanks of cars crossing Golden Gate Bridge during the spraying. As each of the cars gasses up, the bacteria spreads to the gas in the service station tank. Worse, the bug soon develops an appetite for petroleum byproducts, in particular plastic and other synthetics. As the elaborate web of modern technology begins to disintegrate, the characters, a varied cast from all walks of life, are thrown back on their own resources for survival. A venial Louisiana congressman suddenly inherits the presidency; an insurance agent quits her job and takes to the wilderness; ghetto families from Oakland join forces with a hippie commune near Altamont; and a scientist developing a solar power facility in the New Mexico desert becomes the hope for technology's revival.


While it is not a trilogy, could you be thinking of Timescape by Gregory Benford as per Short story featuring microbes that eat plastic and rubber, causing regression of technology? The question is more matching than the summaries I've found, with the suggestion being that the plastic shortage may actually be due to bombed oil fields.


Another, unaccepted, answer to Short story featuring microbes that eat plastic and rubber, causing regression of technology mentions Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater by Kit Pedler, which matches for a bacteria eating plastics, which is a better match for the plastic-eating bacteria and the collapse of society.

The plot is simple: a man-made bacterium starts eating plastic, all plastic, everywhere. Incidents occur around the world, but the heart of the infection is in London and during the course of the novel, central London is cordoned off by the army who erect decontamination centres at key gateways in and out.


The book is set in winter so the quick result of all this melting and exploding is the cessation of power, light and communications. The government assumes emergency powers. The army cordons off central London and sets up decontamination centres at key gateways, where citizens are stripped and deloused – all in a bid to prevent the bacterium travelling beyond central London and, potentially, around the world.

What does not match is that it's a single scientist who accidentally comes up with the bacteria while trying to solve environmental problems, not a terrorist group, and they manage to solve the problem before civilization wholly collapses.


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