As many of you know, I am a voracious reader. I love language, context, syntax, narrative and learning new things; which is why for a number of years I was only reading non-fiction (i.e. historical, political, autobiographical) and could not seem to break this ‘cycle’. However, I love great fiction and getting sucked into a good story…’great fiction’ (of course) being a subjective term.

I only preface this because when I received my beloved Kindle as a gift on my birthday back in December, I had requested recommendations from listeners of books that they have enjoyed. I have referenced many books that I had read (and subsequently recommend) like, “1776“, “The GOD Delusion“, “Stalingrad“, “The Fall of Berlin 1945“, “Collapse” and “Team of Rivals” etc on the show many times as it related to relevant discussion. Therefore the majority of recommendations from listeners (understandably) were within this same vein.

However, Chris – a listener in CT – was one of the only people to recommend fiction. In fact he had made an enticing guaruntee that if I did not like the book that he recommended, he would reimburse me for the cost of the purchase. Not a bad way to pique my interest!

Daemon & Freedom by Daniel Suarez

Chris recommended a book entitled, “Daemon” by a new author, Daniel Suarez.

dae·mon – Noun – A program or process that sits idly in the background until it is invoked to perform its task.

When it comes to writing book reviews, I am not much for delineating, “the protagonist / antagonist struggle” or any other kind of hokum…you either like a story or you do not…all other interpretation is entirely up to the individual reader and their particular taste.

I really enjoyed, “Daemon”…so much so that I also bought the sequel to the book, “Freedom” as soon as it was released in the Kindle store back in January.

Actually, I am glad that I knew that there was a sequel coming out before I finished the first book, as the ending of “Daemon” is such that if you did not know that there was a planned sequel, you would be left hanging…and (judging from some of the reviews from people who did not know this) angry & disappointed. In my opinion, “Daemon” (the first book) left off in such an obvious way that there had to be a sequel, as it left too many unanswered and unresolved questions and could only be described as anticlimactic. If you are into technology, computers, gaming and thrillers (pls see: heavy male demographic who play ‘WoW‘ and eat their weight in Hot Pockets), I think that you will like it too.

Here’s the Story:

Matthew Sobol, a genius video game developer, dies of brain cancer. Prior to his death, he puts a computer controlled (hence, ‘Daemon’) plan into motion that will drastically manipulate and take advantage of society’s dependence on technology and the internet.

The Daemon is invoked to do certain pre-determined tasks based upon real-time news events and in reaction to any attempt to destroy it. Corporations find their networks being taken over, stock markets around the world are at the mercy of their dependence on electronic trading, individuals find their personal information used against them to either get them to do the Daemon’s bidding or punish them for acts of greed. All of which is presumably preordained by Sobol before his death, who has tired of too much power resting in the hands of too few.

What I found interesting is that the rules of the Daemon seem to follow those found within the AI of Sobol’s extremely popular Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG’s); which is how it is able to stealthily infect millions of player’s computers around the world, thereby (unbeknownst to the player) using their computers as a way to expand the size and influence of the Daemon and keep it from being centralized on one server as it enacts it’s preprogrammed tasks. It is also how it recruits an ‘army’ of operatives, specifically targeting disenfranchised gamers and others who are technologically proficient. Due to it’s control of corporate networks and banking, the Daemon has unlimited financial resources to pay, recruit and develop new technology to help it to meet it’s ends.

You are introduced to ‘Loki’, who becomes the most powerful Daemon operative wielding a tremendous amount of technology, money and power at his fingertips to help ensure the survival of the Daemon. You also meet Detective Pete Sebeck, essentially your ‘protagonist’ and hero-character. However, the story leads you in a number of directions. When you begin to hate Sobol and wish for the destruction of the Daemon…the story suddenly turns and reveals more of it purpose and you find yourself rooting for it.

I thought that the story actually started off a little slow as it established the activation of the Daemon upon word of Sobol’s death. To give you a hint as to how it works, the Daemon scours the internet for certain keywords and stories. Once the announcement that Sobol has died hits the ‘wire’, this is the trigger to activate the Daemon’s first tasks. However, I very quickly began to get sucked into the technology and premise of the story. I fancy myself a ‘tech-nerd’ and I would get a kick out of how the Daemon takes advantage of how connected we all are because of technology…and how dangerous / scary that dependence can be.

Is it literature or the greatest book ever written? No. There were times when I would roll my eyes at the mention of certain technology and the unlikelihood of it’s existence. But it is FUN. I am a gamer…and part of what you enjoy about games is the fantasy and the ability to do things that can’t be done in real-life. Whether a futuristic action game or a superhero title, it is fun to bend reality a little to spin a good yarn.

After reading so much non-fiction, it was also nice to be taken on a fun little ride through technology, computers, gaming and other techno-topics of interest to me. I recommend the book (and it’s sequel) to anyone who was enticed by the premise I described in this review. It won’t change your life, but it will entertain you. I would describe it as a ‘page turner’ once you get deep enough into the story that you just have to know what happens next, especially because the story bounces around from one character to the next.

At this time, I won’t review the sequel, “Freedom”, as it is a natural extension of the first book and has a much more satisfying ending (and answers more questions). Personally, I enjoyed the sequel more than the first book, but of course that wouldn’t be possible without having read “Daemon” first. If you end of picking up a copy of “Daemon” and dig it, I would definitely recommend picking up the sequel.

It is interesting (and a little scary) to think about how fragile we all are as we depend more and more on technology for everything relating to our money and personal information, and how not-too-far-off we may be from a cyber-attack in which world economies could be at the mercy of a simple keystroke.

With that being said, I thank Chris for the recommendation…he gets to keep his money.