Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review: Daemon

Book Review: 'Daemon' by Daniel Suarez
4 / 5 Stars

How 'Daemon' came to be is an interesting story in self-confidence and perseverance. 

When he finished writing 'Daemon' (his first novel), Suarez was unable to find a publisher, so he created his own publishing company, titled Verdugo Press, and released the book under the quasi-pseudonym 'Leinad Zeraus' in 2006. 

The book received sufficient buzz to bring it to the attention of the publishing establishment and Suarez signed deal with Dutton to bring out a hardcover edition in 2009. In December of that year, Signet issued a mass-market paperback edition (640 pp.). 

A sequel, 'Freedom', was issued in 2010. Suarez has since gone on to release several more technothrillers. as well as a dedicated sci-fi space adventure, 'Delta-V' (2019).

'Daemon' is set in the near future, and opens on a note of gruesome death: a man named Joseph Pavlos has suffered a most Unfortunate accident on a rural road in Ventura County, California. 

Detective Peter Sebeck is assigned to investigate the accident and discovers that the land where it took place is owned by a computer gaming company called Cyberstorm Entertainment. Cyberstorm's CEO, a genius named Matthew A. Sobol, has recently died at age 34 from a brain tumor.

Suspicious that the death of Pavlos was no accident, Sebeck moves his inquiry to the headquarters of Cyberstorm...........and there, things suddenly get much more complicated. It seems that Matthew Sobol 'lives', as an artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in the Net. 

Sobol, a megalomaniac, has designs on the future of mankind. And to bring those designs to fruition, Sobol has loosed a rogue program, called the Daemon, on the world's information systems. 

Sebeck, uneducated in the technology of the modern cyber era, teams up with freelance computer expert Jon Ross to track the machinations of the Daemon. It's not long before the FBI and the NSA are involved, and a major federal initiative is under way to find and wipe, the server(s) hosting the AI.

But however disembodied it may be, the Daemon isn't without its defenses. A bubble-headed bleach blonde reporter named Anji Anderson, an ex-con named Charles Moseley, and an incel gamer named Brian Gragg have been promised financial rewards, and positions of power in the world to come, in exchange for acting as agents for the Daemon. 

As the Daemon gains control of an ever-increasing proportion of the world's computer networks, the body count in the planet's first true Cyber War is going to rise............a lot............ 

At 640 pages 'Daemon' is a lengthy novel, and author Suarez wisely keeps his chapters short and his prose spare and unadorned in order to keep the narrative from bogging down. To retain momentum, the latter chapters of the book showcase Michael Bay - style scenes of widescreen mayhem and mass destruction. There's even a high-tech Resurrection from the Dead (of sorts). All of this content somewhat inevitably leaves the novel overloaded; I finished 'Daemon' thinking that if it had been 100 or 200 pages shorter it would have been a genuine 5 Star novel (and indeed, 'Freedom', and Suarez's other novels 'Influx' and 'Kill Decision' stay closer to 500 pages in length).

The cyberpunk content of 'Daemon' is polished and, in its own over-the-top way, convincing; the AI is constrained by the rules of the world of bits and bytes, but still is able to manipulate the 'concrete' world through the actions of its human operatives, and the exploitation of the burgeoning landscape of e-commerce. As I read in May 2021 about drones being used to deliver goods to customers, Suarez's extrapolations from 2006 regarding the Daemon's malevolence have a sense of believability............?!

Summing up, 'Daemon' is a good example of 'modern' cyberpunk, and anyone who is a fan of the genre will want to have it on their bookshelf.

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