Book: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Alas, more interesting than good

Daemon: A Novel
Daniel Suarez
Dutton, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-525-95111-7
429 pages

The Slashdot review of Daemon makes much of the fact that it's a techno-thriller and its author, Daniel Suarez, is a proper geek. The reviewer there points out that that means that the technology in the book isn't absurd. People don't defeat security software by typing really fast. Computers don't enhance photographs, causing them to gain detail that they plainly didn't have in the first place. And no computer-security professional shouts, "X-eleven's are down!" as though it meant something. (As happens in a Dan Brown novel.)

That's not to say that everything that happens in Daemon is probable. It's not the business of the plot of a techno-thriller to be probable. But the things that are done with computers aren't absurd. At least at the beginning.

As the book begins, two employees of a Californian online-game company have died in bizarre accidents. Well, maybe not accidents. The events seem to have been brought about over internet connections. And could they be related to the recent death from brain cancer of the company's founder, a man who was famous for intricate and diabolical game scenarios?

Before the beginning of the text, there's a paragraph that explains that in computer jargon a daemon is a program that runs in the background and takes actions based on certain events. (For example, the mail server program that a person's email software connects to is a daemon.) It's explained that the word is condensed from Disk and Execution MONitor. I think that Wikipedia is much more likely to be right in connecting the word with Maxwell's demon. And, at a guess, programmers picked the Greek spelling rather than the Roman because of its having been used in the Plato dialogs they had been made to read in their humanities classes.

The narrative begins a bit uncertainly but finds its feet around page 60. But another problem comes up in the last third of the book. From there on, either computers are doing something that's sufficiently improbable that it's pretty much absurd or someone has anticipated events with a very improbable degree of accuracy. Effectively all of the credibility that the narrative built up goes out the window.

There's also the fact that the ending falls flat. Little is resolved and it appears that the book is intended to be the first of a series. There are some interesting ideas in the book, but that's not enough to make up for those disappointed expectations. Alas, it will require more than a positive Slashdot review to make me want to pick up the sequel.

Posted: Wed - August 5, 2009 at 01:06 PM   Main   Category: