“Her new boss was an undead automaton from hell, true. But, no job is perfect.”
“In all, his outfit required nearly two thousand man-years of research and development, eight barrels of oil, and sixteen patent and trademark infringement lawsuits. All so he could possess casual style. A style that, in logistical requirements, was comparable to fielding a nineteenth-century military brigade.
But he looked good. Casual.”
-Daniel Suarez – Daemon
Daemon by Daniel Suarez is a novel I’ve had recommended to me for years. I’d been reluctant to read it, though I can’t put my finger on a reason why. Perhaps it’s because this novel is given the genre tag of Techno-Thriller, which is a genre I have a complicated relationship with. I cut my teeth on novels like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain which are also given that tag, though I personally feel there are more accurate labels for both those books, and indeed many novels in the genre. In the case of Daemon, I really feel like this is closer to a Science Fiction/Cyber-punk novel than a true thriller. Had someone pitched this to me with those tags I would probably have jumped on it long ago. Yes, I know that makes me shallow. Sorry.
Daemon tells the story of a rogue computer program that infiltrates society after the death of its creator, billionaire genius Matthew Sobol. It follows several different characters and presents both sides of the conflict; those working alongside the titular Daemon, and those combating it. It is a wonderful blend of novels like Snow Crash, or Neuromancer with more traditional thriller aspects.
Daemon has a follow-up novel, 2010’s Freedom™.
What I Liked
The plot of this novel was clever and inventive and kept me guessing throughout. Due to the fact that we see this entire novel from a human standpoint, (with none of the genre standard breaking away to reading lines of computer programming dialogue to inform us about the inner working of the Daemon) we are left with only limited picture at the complicated web the Daemon is weaving. That resulted in the final set-piece, along with several smaller ones earlier in the book, feeling tense and fresh.
Though I didn’t feel a particular emotional attachment to any of the characters in this novel, it was very interesting to start the book with several characters and see which side of the conflict they sided with. I cannot wait to read the follow-up novel and see the inevitable showdown between Ross and Loki. Having followed both their viewpoints I’m counting on that encounter to be a high point of the duology.
The action in this novel was well written and realised about as well as can be expected in book form. Some of the scenes stretch believability just a little bit, but they are such minor parts of the novel, and occurred when I was already invested in the story, so they didn’t detract from my enjoyment to any great degree.
Lastly, there is a cool twist/revelation at the end of the novel that was handled extremely well by Suarez, with just the right amount of foreshadowing to make it not feel forced or out of place. It also served to add to my anticipation for the next book without cheapening this one, which is exactly what the final passage of a novel should strive to do.
What I Didn't Like
For all my praise of the novel there were definitely some faults. As mentioned earlier, at no point in the novel did I feel connected to any of the characters beyond their importance to the plot. The novel is dense enough as it is, so I’m not sure where Suarez could have fit in some more character focused scenes, but it would have been nice to have them feel a little more relateable.
Secondly, the story took a little while to get engaging and interesting. It begins at a fairly standard point, with a police officer being assigned a case that involves more than meets the eye. It takes at least 50 pages for the novel to really get going and become the story it’s trying to tell.
This was a debut novel for Suarez, and unfortunately some of the sentence structuring made that apparent. Sentences like “Now gunfire crackled like fire crackers” just feel a little lazy. Also, many sentences begin with the word “But”. They are mostly in characters stream of consciousness passages, but from a linguistic standpoint that really ground my gears.
Lastly, I found the novel was a little unclear on the capabilities and limitations of the Daemon. For the majority of the novel we’re told that it is an unthinking set of processes carrying out its purpose without thought or emotion, yet at other times it seems to be something closer to a self-aware AI. It never took me out of the story, but upon closing the book I was left scratching my head a little bit.
Should I Read it?
In spite of my few criticisms of this novel, overall I enjoyed the heck out of the time I spent with it. The plot was fast paced, and twisted just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat without being convoluted. If you’re a fan of modern day Science Fiction, and are interested in the implications of technology in our every day life then this novel is a definite must-read!
- Plot 80%
- Writing Quality 70%
- Pacing 75%
- Emotional Connection 65%
- Wildcard 85%
- Re-readability 80%
- Overall Rating 76%