Saturday, February 20, 2010

Daniel Suarez Provides Fun Reading About The Techpocalypse

If you want a doomsday scenario highlighting everything that's wrong with this decade and how it could get worse, you really can't have any more fun than with Daniel Suarez's Daemon.  It's got the whole generation-gap thing going for it; the disconnect between the folks who grew up with online role playing games and the folks who played Pong or didn't play anything at all; the fusion between virtual worlds and real; the emergent properties and behaviors of distributed networks; the implications of distributed computing as it leads to distributed manufacture and distributed murder.  

A wealthy computer game programmer, dying of cancer, writes software that is activated by the news of his death.  The software goes out into the internet, establishes corporations, infects the computer networks of other corporations to levy extortion, recruits disaffected computer gamers and prison inmates, and then establishes a world-wide "darknet" to exert control over just about everything.  A lot of good folks try to stop it and a lot of those good folks die, but a lot of bad folks try to stop it too, and by the end it's not so clear who the bad guys are.

This is definitely gee-whiz boy book stuff.  There were parts near the beginning where the snob in me didn't want to go on, but the rest of me was having too much fun, so I ignored it.  There's wild car wrecks and ridiculous violence and stuff that seems laughably absurd because it's just a little plausable.  The book reads like Science Fiction, but then creeps you out as you realize that all the technology in the book exists right now. 

The sequel, Freedom (TM), gets even better.  (I like the ironic (TM).)  It's got the relentless pace of the first novel but it touches on some pretty "big idea" territory without slowing down.  Don't want to give away too much, but we might want to reconsider our reliance on private milatary contractors, data mining, and corn. 

Yes, corn.  It's time to take the corn down a peg. 

This may seem an odd choice of book for a such a retro community.  But trust me, if you have enough fun with it to read into the sequel, you might be pleasantly surprised about the sort of community that emerges, after all.


  1. I agree! It is time to take corn down a peg. I hate that corn ethanol is in all the gas these days. It destroys normal engines with prolonged use. Not to mention it's driving up the price of corn and contributing to hunger deaths in Africa...

  2. And yet the Government pays farmers to burn fields of it to continue to drive that price up. The natives had it right: grow what you need to get you through the winter.
    Side note, Winston, this review reminds me a bit of another novel I really enjoyed reading. It hasn't been published, yet, but I think it'll take the SciFi markt by storm. *~_^*

  3. Rachel - Don't get me started on Ethanol! We were stranded at sea when they started adding that to gasoline. Our boat motor ran for 30 years without a hitch, then Ethanol came along, and it died. A couple days later, after we got towed to the boat-yard, we learned that the mechanics were swamped because *everybody's* engines were getting clogged.