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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Daniel Suarez

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To purchase Daemon

Title: Daemon
Author: Daniel Suarez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 617 pages
Availability: Daemon - US
Daemon - UK
Daemon - Canada
Daemon - India
Daemon - France
Daemon - Deutschland
Daemon - Italia
Daemon - España
  • First (basically self-)published in 2006, under the pseudonym Leinad Zeraus

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Our Assessment:

B : wild but intriguing premise that's entertainingly spun out

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 6/10/2008 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Suarez's riveting debut would be a perfect gift for a favorite computer geek or anyone who appreciates thrills, chills and cyber suspense." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Daemon was originally essentially self-published, and it already says something that the terrible decision to do so under the (anagrammatic) pseudonym 'Leinad Zeraus' did not consign it to oblivion; as its subsequent success in more traditionally published form (wisely also using the more traditional author name) suggests, it's a solid, serviceable thriller. The self-published detour also seems to have benefitted it, because Daemon doesn't quite fit the usual thriller-blueprint, an editorially unfettered Suarez taking the story to some surprising places. Yes, it has a lot of the Crichton-elements, and readers get their fill of very run-of-the-mill (i.e. also totally over the top) action and confrontation scenes, but Suarez still takes his premise in some unexpected directions.
       Daemon begins with a brief notice of the death of Matthew Sobol -- at age 34, of brain cancer -- , a computer whiz who made a very big fortune with his massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Sobol remains a lingering presence, even after he's dead, however, as he has programmed some computers, as well his widely-distributed games, very cleverly, and his death unleashes his grand program and plan -- and, boy, is it ever grand and ambitious. Slowly, various characters figure out that this is something big -- really big:

This was as far from Main Street as he'd ever been. This wasn't the tattooed, pierced, neo-tribal rebellious bullshit of his generation. This was a quiet demonstration of networked power. This was it.
       From the beginning, the demonstrations aren't too quiet: murder and mayhem quickly follow, especially when the authorities try to dig into what Sobol might have been up to. A conflagration at Sobol's home is an early indication of how well-organized and capable his programming and his plan is, and the authorities barely know how to even begin to figure out how deep and extensive Sobol's reach from beyond the grave is.
       There are some clues as to aspects of what's behind all this: so, for example, one computer expert notes:
I've played Sobol's games. A lot. His AI succeeds because it doesn't anticipate you -- it manipulates you.
       Key to Sobol's Daemon is information -- conveniently stored and moved around as computer data. As many of the chapters in which the program is at work show, having access to that data, and being able to use (and alter) it allows even a computer program to exert a lot of control: it readily identifies people, knows a great deal about them, and can track many of their movements and actions. Beginning with that, the Daemon can recruit people to assist it -- or blackmail others into going along. Control of personal and corporate data gives the Daemon an incredible power -- and it is programmed to use it. A prisoner is quickly on the road to release and freedom when his official record is altered, while a police officer is easily made to look so guilty (for something that he didn't do) that he finds himself on death row. And enormous corporations suddenly find themselves entirely under Daemon-control -- learning that resistance is futile, since that would lead simply to the Daemon wiping all the corporate records, destroying the company.
       Once the extent of the infiltration of corporate America (and the world), as well as other institutions, by the Daemon begins to dawn on the authorities they have to be careful how to go about trying to defuse it. It (and its agents) seems to be everywhere, and hence near all-knowing -- and it has some effective strategies against those who appear to pose a danger to it (though Suarez gets a bit too enamored of driverless cars for this purpose).
       Among the creepy realizations those looking into the Daemon have is: "My God. It's a corporation." Though certainly not your typical one .....
       The Daemon appears to be ruthless as well as unstoppable, but Suarez's monster-creation isn't entirely black-or-white, nor is its end-game necessarily purely malign. At one point Sobol admits:
I suspect that democracy is not viable in a technologically advanced society. Free people wield too much ability to destroy it.
       But he's also willing to be proved wrong (though that's what the sequel, Freedom ™, is for ...).
       The three-part Daemon -- jumping a few months at a time between sections -- lays a sort of groundwork, describing the rise and spread of the Daemon. Suarez has a pretty good feel for the repeated Crichton-like build-up of suspense, with various characters and parts of the plot coming to a head -- only to veer off somewhere else entirely soon enough. With a very big picture here, Suarez has a lot to play with -- and he plays quite well. The characters are pretty thin and barely any qualify as interesting personalities, but they are a very diverse lot and he puts them in sufficiently extreme situations that it hardly matters. Sobol, on the other hand, remains rather too shadowy a figure (yes, he's dead, but a bit more background would surely have been of interest).
       The computer-science behind the story is reasonably well presented, though at a fairly basic level (with a bit of nomenclature thrown in to give it an authentic ring); tech fans probably would enjoy more detail about how all this works, but you can understand Suarez not wanting to get too bogged down in that.
       Fast paced, jumping between several storylines and many characters, heavy on dialogue and very short paragraphs, Daemon reads easily enough -- and is, for the most part, thoroughly engaging. Suarez occasionally gets too carried away with certain details, and elsewhere there aren't enough, but the big picture is a decent one. It's particularly nice to find that Suarez avoids the most predictable outcomes, as his larger vision is rather different than, say, Michael Crichton would have had it, and even if episode by episode things go pretty much by the numbers there's a more complex idea behind all this than is usually found in thrillers. And while the writing isn't great, it's good enough not to get in the way of the story.
       A solid pass-time read that's a bit more than just empty entertainment.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 June 2013

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Daemon: Reviews: Daniel Suarez: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Daniel Suarez was born in 1964.

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© 2013 the complete review

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