Daemon and Freedom™

Mike GristBook / Movie Reviews 5 Comments

These books are the future. I loved them and really hope Daniel Suarez writes more set in this awesomely utopian/dystopian thriller tech world. Damn, they resonated with my world view and my ideas of human tubes and human plus so much. All kinds of stuff I’ve been thinking about and enjoying got incorporated and stepped up to the next level; extra senses, MMORPG’s, blurring reality and augmented reality, along with plenty of butt-kicking bad-assery.


Better than Dan Brown?

Basically, yes. The writing itself may or not be better than Dan Brown- they’re written as thrillers and have a thriller’s breakneck pace, but who cares about that when the ideas are so damn rich, and so beautifully enervated. Each time the daemon iterates I’m left thinking- what could possibly happen next? Then something doubly awesome happens and I get jolted to the same new/old realization all over again- this is fantastic, and this could really happen now.

It’s hard to say much about either book without giving away major spoilers, but I’ll try.

The story

It’s the story of a daemon. A daemon is a specially programmed AI hanging out on the Internet somewhere, designed to be triggered and take action when certain events occur. In this case, the daemon was designed by a millionnaire genius game designer, architect of several major game worlds similar to Warcraft and Call of Duty, who didn’t like the way modern civilization was headed and decided to wrench it in a new direction. Before the book even begins he dies of brain cancer, and news of his death triggers the daemon to start.

And it starts with violence. It is born in blood, as automatic vehicles and bleeding edge tech security systems cause a massacre on his estate, all driven by the same AI programs he used in his first person shooter games, operating in the real world via 3-D world maps and smart sensors.


Wow. Right? The thought of birthing computer AI from video games into the real world is stunning, but seemingly utterly doable. Suarez has synthesized a whole raft of great ideas into this story, and pushed them to their limits. Google Maps and others like it are becoming increasingly sophisticated, communicating more and more with GPS systems in our cars, our phones, our laptops. Cars like the Ford Sync operate on voice commands, while others will parallel park at the touch of a button, others will take over the steering to avoid crashes.

Once these two amoebic tendrils overlap- 3D real world maps with cars’ ability to ‘see’ the road, we’ll be at a stage where AI really could take over a vehicle and do whatever it wanted to with it. We’re tempted to say- Skynet! but this just feels far more real than Skynet, because now most of the tech and infrastructure is in place for it to really happen. Not with ambulatory robots like the T-800 sure, but it could happen tomorrow with cars or bikes if someone put enough money into it.

That’s how daemon begins, and Freedom tm takes it to a whole new level. I can hardly even hint at what happens in the second without giving too much away. At the beginning I sat down to read it and had absolutely no idea where the story would go. None at all. But it went plenty of places, all of them as rich and well thought out as the first book, if not more so.

The Verdict

It’s the ideas that make Suarez so much better than Dan Brown. In fact it’s hardly fair to even compare them, since Suarez’s books are more akin to Asimov’s Foundation series- keenly imagined future worlds manipulated by a genius from the past, but with all the techno-thriller drive remaining to push the world forwards, with ultra-real ideas as the fuel. Suarez does far more than have a single hero whip around a city looking for hidden answers. He invents, reinvents, and reconstructs whole societies.

I could go on about it way more, but I’d only be repeating all the awesome stuff the books do, and that wouldn’t be right. Suffice it to say you should read them, and you’ll love them. At points I was pumping the air with my fists, at one point I was nearly brought to tears (not because something was too sad, but because it was just too awesome and positive about the human spirit), at others I was shuddering, and always I was intellectually challenged.

Excellent books, must read if you live in the 21st century. The world he shows is where we’re headed.


Comments 5

  1. Well Mike, I appreciate you lending me Daemon and likewise hurling me back into the 21st century. I finished it in just under 48 hours, which is actually less a testament to the quality of the book and more a consequence of my summer holiday. Don’t get me wrong though, Daemon can certainly be described as a “page-turner”. I was disappointed when it ended, actually, but not because I was hoping for more. Let me explain.

    I think it’s great that this book has obviously touched a deep chord with you. Good books are supposed to do this. Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for myself. Without a doubt, the idea with which Suarez used to write Daemon was truly unique and frighteningly realistic. I, too can see how many of the incidents that occurred in the book could also conceivably happen in our own increasingly tech-ruled world.

    However, I would argue that his idea wasn’t nearly enough to carry the book itself. The characters were either maddening cliches or completely unrealistic props. A brooding cop with a penchant for late-night escapades? The career-centered CIA girl chick who falls for the wrong guy? Haven’t seen either of those before. On the other hand there’s also the MMORPG geek who also runs late-night raves and has a penchant for murder? Are we supposed to believe people like that exist?

    Not only did I think the characters were poorly envisioned, but at no point did I feel empathy with any of them. Oh, this one died? Didn’t see that one coming. Wait, they may not really be dead? Oh, OK…

    My feeling is that Suarez came up with this great idea and rushed the book out before anyone else could steal it. There were definitely hints of a better writer throughout Daemon though, which is why I’d also like to give Freedom a chance (ha). If he could get his writing wits about him, he is definitely capable of producing some quality work, not just fodder for the tech-geek masses. Anyway, sorry to poo-poo this one. I promise I’ll return it in one piece!

  2. Post

    Lukas!! I couldn’t really argue with anything you said here; the characters are pretty shallow, and until the scene over halfway through where Roy Merritt starts kicking ass I didn’t really care about any of them. But I guess that didn’t bother me.

    Have you read any of Asimov’s Foundation series? That’s one of the closest analogues I can think of to Daemon. In Foundation some genius foresees the troubles the human race will face, and prepares a series of solutions designed to kick in to ‘save’ humanity at their moments of greatest peril. There may or not be characters involved, though knowing Asimov I doubt there’s any depth. What’s key is watching how humanity develops, reaches crisis, and how the genius plans save them.

    That’s what pulled me through Daemon. Characters don’t develop, but the Daemon does, and we’re left guessing what it’s endgame will be. I guess I didn’t even expect any real depth from the people. Hell, there wouldn’t be room for depth! At points there are four or five talking heads in a room and all they get by way of a name or a tag is- CIA, FBI, Corporate America.

    Suarez did that on purpose. That’s the pace of a thriller I guess.

    Also, I wonder if you read any Dan Brown books? That’s the other similar work I reference. No depth, just a hectic pace through an intriguing series of reveals.

    I heard an interview with Suarez, where he explains how he wrote Daemon in lieu of writing a White Paper for the government about the potential threats of technology. He figured only a few people would read that, so instead made a thriller book out of the ideas he had.

    Freedom TM waiting for you when/if you’re ready 😉

  3. Mike, that’s really funny because I was going to address that same thing in my comment, the feeling that Suarez made the characters seem so lifeless as a sort of literary mechanism or another. Perhaps to show the blurring of humanity and AI, and how each approach each other the further technology advances.

    I haven’t read the Foundation Series, but I feel like I should. Additionally, I would recommend the series of books that Frank Herbert’s son put out a few years back as a prelude to the Dune series. It jumps ahead a few thousand years to show us where our reliance on AI may take us. Even if you haven’t read the seven or so Dune novels, it really doesn’t matter. I suppose I preferred those because, well, I’m a big SF geek, and also because they just seemed more like novels as opposed to Suarez’s thriller-style of writing.

    Either way, I’m game for reading Freedom. Let’s see where the Daemon takes us!

  4. Post

    Lukas- Dune just turned me off, 5 minutes into the movie. I heard the books are better, maybe I`ll give them a crack. Do you have them? Freedom exchange can happen next time we meet up.

  5. Mike, you claim to be a geek but you’ve never read any DUNE novels? My lord, what are we gonna do with you. Unfortunately, I don’t have any with me here in Japan… Anyway, I suggest you start with the original series written by Frank Herbert. The first 3 should suffice, but if you’re a real gamer like me, then you’ll go for all seven. After that, go back to the prequels written by his son, the ones that deal with AI.

    The movie was a noble attempt, but in the end, had to rely on movie FX that just weren’t quite up to snuff back in the 8os.

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