May 07 2009


Published by at 12:17 pm under Books

by Daniel Suarez

While in the middle of reading a couple of non-fiction books, I quickly read this action packed, contemporary Thriller. It is a fast paced story with an interesting context and some clever twists. A good airplane book and maybe more.
The book was written by a ‘software consultant’ turned author and the computer related context he provides is well grounded if significantly enhanced over current capabilities. Many of the computer network exploits that contribute to the story are grounded in fact, but carried out with over the top precision and scope (I believe!). On one level, it can be read as an almost comic book like ‘shoot em up’ (especially the penultimate battle and chase scene), but it can also be viewed as providing an ominous view of the future. A future in which most people are marginalized and caught in a world being fought over by big anonymous entities: big government, big corporations, and big ‘botnets’ (collections of computers controlled by someone who shouldn’t control them).
The bots form the idea which this story adds to an otherwise commone scenario. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but a, probably not really evil, genius creates a distributed set of programs (bots) that implement his desires after he dies. The genius has been responsible for creating extremely popular and realistic on-line games played by millions of people. These skills are then expanded into using those capabilities to enlist people to his cause and to attack the computers and institutions we depend on all the time. The game environment is used to communicate about and to coordinate actions in the real world. Real and virtual blend together. Focusing on the question of “what’s real” is the more serious way of reading the book.
My main objections to this story, is that the characters are too good to be true; too smart, too strong, too beautiful. This applies to the good and bad guys as well. Everything works according to somebody’s plan. Nothing is messy, nothing breaks. Everything works just right. No messy loose end or ‘noise’ interferes with plans and implementations. A common failing of speculative fiction.
The way the story ends, the author seems to be setting up at least a series of books; if not a movie or TV series. Another book (‘Freedom’) is in the works and promised for 2010.

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