Book review of Daniel Suarez’ Daemon
I mainly cover fantasy here at Fantasy Book News, but this novel covers a fairly mixed bag from a genre perspective. I first heard about Daemon when The Dragon Page interviewed Daniel Suarez, and my interest was piqued when conversation mentioned that the novel was so accurate that the federal government had taken notice. I generally stray from technical or sci-fi books, simply because I get my fill of technology in my day to day life, but I am very interested in future technology, and a novel that blends reality with fantasy so well that the line blurs was something I definitely had to check out.
First and foremost, Daemon is the fastest I’ve ever read a novel. I read it in a week, and the paperback volume I have is 617 pages. I’m by no means a slow reader, but I have other responsibilities in life, like family, work, etc. that pull me away from reading on a regular schedule. Daemon was so addictive that I catered my daily routine to it, rather than the opposite being true, as is the case with most novels. This novel surpasses the level of action pacing seen in Dan Brown’s novels.
I should mention that this is a highly technical read, but not so much that you can’t follow the story if you’re not an IT professional. I think the level of detail is just second nature to Daniel Suarez based on his background: he has designed and developed software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries. The technical detail in Daemon should not scare off readers who fear they may not understand the details; to the contrary, it adds a believable level of detail.
I decided to include a review of Daemon here because the novel does have elements of fantasy. There are entire chapters that take place inside MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), including two of the more popular video games published by main character Matthew Sobul’s company. If you opened the book randomly and happened to land on one of these pages, you would think you’re reading a fantasy novel.
Daemon is a fast-paced techno-thriller, containing sophisticated action sequences reminiscent of the tv show 24, elements of suspense and horror, and even a pair of graphic sex scenes thrown in for good measure. The plot focuses on a daemon (Disk And Execution MONitor) script, written by computer gaming industry genius Matthew Sobul, that monitors news websites for headlines. On the day Sobul’s obituary crosses the web, the script is executed, setting in motion a slew of electronic work orders and other database highjacking procedures in an attempt to control a large swath of the modern economy.
The novel follows detective Peter Sebeck in his attempt to contain the daemon, Brian Gragg, a young hacker who discovers the daemon through in-game contact with a Nazi avatar created by Sobul prior to his death, and a slew of other characters contacted by the daemon to perform tasks. One such example is Charles Mosely, a prisoner working in a prison’s call center for pennies, who is contacted by phone one day by the daemon. The daemon orchestrates his release from prison, and subsequently employs him as a soldier.
There are wonderful elements of what I normally call “magic” in fantasy novels, but in this case they are technologically driven. Employees of the daemon wear glasses that give them a heads up display of the world around them, enhanced with additional information, like a video game. They can control computer-driven cars with the flick of a finger. The word magic has been recently been reintroduced to the public as a marketing tool with Apple’s iPad, with the basic premise that any new technology that we don’t fully understand yet seems like magic, that is until we understand it, then its just another technology, and this is the same idea introduced in Daemon.
I really enjoyed one of the central themes in Daemon, which is a debate that will become more prevalent in coming years: the question of whether to attempt to contain or regulate a technology versus accepting it and having a reliable security system in place in the event of a catastrophe. This question is one that will never be answered absolutely, as it is driven by the larger force of evolution, which cannot be stopped. Daemon deals with this question in fantastic fashion, and is a big part of what makes flying through the action sequences contained in its pages so fun.
I don’t read many thrillers, but I read fantasy novels like its my job, so I guess I feel semi-qualified to review Daemon. I can firmly say that anyone who’s into technology and believable technology-driven fantasy elements will thoroughly enjoy Daemon.
You can purchase Daemon over at Amazon.com.