Bookshelf: Daemon

It’s been a while since I read a tech thriller, set just a little in the future. This one is the first published novel by Daniel Suarez, an actual IT and Security consultant who went into writing. In fact, Daemon was at first a self-published effort, but was then picked up by a ‘real’ publishing house for release in 2009; I actually read this on my Kindle.

Written across three parts separated by several months, it starts with the death of a genius MMORPG and AI designer – Matthew Sobol – which in turn provides the trigger for the eponymous Daemon he has designed which will re-shape the whole of global society, and not just on the internet, and the ‘darknet’, but in actual physical life, using recruits from the games, working in augmented reality rigs, and even controlled cars called AutoM8s. The book primarily follows some key law officers trying to unravel the mystery of the Daemon, and some of it’s key recruits from both the gaming world, but also from criminal ranks.

The book itself comes out quite strongly, though in the first section, primarily about Sobol’s death and the storming of his mansion and the ensuing carnage, is well written, but suffers a little from the sheer number of characters who are introduced, many of whom are never seen or referenced again in the book, which detracts a bit as you’re mentally trying to retain all these names before you realise it doesn’t matter. There are also two key action sequences at the beginning and end of the novel which seem wholly written for a film adaptation, which for me sort of spoiled them a bit, though they are well written and relevant to the overall plot for the most part.

It’s apparent from the opening that the author does have more than a passing knowledge of technology, and seems to be able to write comfortably on it – tech references don’t feel as forced as they do in some books, when the author is dropping in words he learned in the research phase. The only minor thought I had on the tech name dropping was the references to datacentres running Cat5 data cabling. Really? Not Cat5e or Cat6? That’s a fairly nerdy piece of nit-picking though.

The whole world works well though when successive characters sense the futility of what they’re doing, and more importantly, who they’re doing it for. As the book progresses, and the scale and severity of the Daemon becomes apparent, it seems less and less that U.S. Federal forces, in the shape of the initial police, FBI, NSA and CIA members are really running the show, and more and more people and functions are shown to be merely outsourced to private security contractors, who as corporate entities like the Daemon, can be infiltrated.

Overall it was a real page turner, so to speak, and as soon as the sequel’s price drops for the Kindle version, I’ll definitely be snapping it up. The story is a very refreshing read, and makes a more convincing scenario not only for a virus to go global, but also how it could social engineer itself into the real world via operatives recruited online. I must admit that at times some parts did feel like a geek version of ‘Fight Club’ as people on the fringes of society are recruited for fun, then turned to an anti-establishment goal, but not to the detriment of the storyline, where for once, some police officers are portrayed as the heroes, themselves let down by their system, which cannot decide how do deal with the Daemon, and again, how many of them are actually working for the system anyway and are not merely out-sourced.

I always try to read a new author as often as I can, and Daniel Suarez, even though this book has been out some time, deserves a selection, especially as the sequel to this book – Freedom (™) – was released earlier this year so you can read them closer together.