A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

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I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been reading Daemon by Daniel Suarez (Once again not an affiliate link) and that I would write up a review of it after I finished. Well I finished it so here’s your review.

Although this is listed under the science fiction section Daemon is more of a techno-thriller. Think Michael Crichton in that Mr. Suarez takes a technology concept and expands it into a story. In Mr. Suarez’s case he actually takes multiple technologies and uses them in this book. Fortunately he also provides information on the technologies he brings up on his website.

Before even rolling into the story I want to bring up one of my favorite parts about this book. Mr. Suarez is a computer consultant writing a book involving computers. That means most of the stuff in the book are technically correct (although not highly detailed in any manner) or plausible. There are a lot of malicious hackers in this book and it’s refreshing to actually read a book where the hacks they are performing are believable and no centered around navigation through a 3-dimensional space where they have to align virtual cubes together to create a computer virus that can break firewalls through some kind of techno-magic.

But enough about that let’s get on with the story. I’ll try to do this without any major spoilers but it’s going to be bloody difficult. Daemon follows a series of different people who are all connected by the same thing, the death of Mathew Sobol. Mr. Sobol was one of the greatest computer game programmers in the world (think John Carmack of id Software only smarter) and was the man who brainstormed several of the most popular computer games of his time. Until his death he headed CyberStorm Entertainment which was the most famous computer gaming company out there due to the aforementioned titles. Well in his death he left behind a little present, a daemon.

As you can guess a rather broad type of characters are presented. One of CyberStorm’s other programmers is killed and the local police force are brought in to investigate. Likewise the story also involves a few identity thieves, new reporters, and even a man spending time in prison. It’s a nice assortment of characters and all of them are given enough time in the book to flesh them out. That time is well spent since given the wide assortment of characters they are all interesting and actually do provide something to the story.

But back to the daemon. The little bugger was programmer to perform a large assortment of different tasks that it slowly executes throughout the book. In essence it reads online news articles and looks for key words that trigger it’s next event. For instance it was originally activated after reading Mr. Sobol’s obituary. I would like to expand on this but honestly the best part of the book is following the progress of what the daemon does and I really don’t want to spoil that part. Let’s just say the author does a good job of keeping it a mystery through the beginning of the book and when its purpose finally revealed the book gets very exciting.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest things I look for in a book is pacing. I don’t like boring parts where nothing of consequence is happening. Daemon thankfully is well paced where each chapter advances the story. Nowhere in the book did I get bored and wish I could skip ahead. I do have to say though the ending is kind of abrupt but does make headway for its sequel Freedom (TM) (a review of which will be posted after I complete reading it).

I’m going to go into a little more detail here which may present itself as spoilers. If you don’t like to have any element of the story revealed stop reading here. I’ll try to keep the spoilers vague as to not reveal much about the story itself but you have been warned.

One of the concepts that begins to be explored in Daemon on the idea of a distributed society. What does that mean? Well it means it a society where there is no central authority and large centralized governments aren’t able to evolve fast enough to keep in pace with ever expanding technology. More or less it’s a libertarians dream come true. The book revolves around the ever expanding daemon. Due to its purpose the NSA, FBI, CIA, several private corporations, and even DARPA are brought in to investigate it. On the other hand various groups of geeks are working against the government entities’ purposes. As you can imagine the geeks use every technological trick in the book to accomplish their goals. They also do it in a decentralized manner which the government agencies find difficult to counteract. I don’t think I can expand on this any further without revealing key plot items though.

This is honestly a hard book to write much about because most of the good parts require revealing important story elements. The bottom line though is that it’s a damned good read. It’s interesting even for the non-geek although I wouldn’t hand this title to your grandmother as she’ll probably be in even more fear of computers. But if you have an interest in computers, a good story, and some ideas libertarians would love (although I’m in no way implying the author meant to include libertarian ideals, they just fit with what is happening in the book) grab this book.

Also for your big time geeks out there that will inevitably complain about the impossibility of the technology involved, shut up. It’s a work of fiction, read it as such.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2010 at 10:25 am