Review

Kill Decision

by Daniel Suarez

Oecophylla longinoda and Oecophylla smaragdina are two closely related arboreal ant species that dominate the tropical forests of Africa, Asia and Australia. More commonly known as weaver ants, they exhibit the highest level of social organization in nature. Weaver ants are also fiercely territorial. They attack any intruder that enters their domain --- no matter what the odds --- swarm enemies with suicidal disregard and are near impossible to stop. What would happen if modern warfare included weaponized drones that were instilled with the DNA of these weaver ants? The results would be shocking, and whoever was able to control such weapons would have a clear advantage against any opponent.

"[Suarez's] latest combines the thrills of a Tom Clancy book with the in-depth technology of the late Michael Crichton, and the result is a novel of modern warfare for a new generation of techno-thriller fans."

This is the deadly premise at the center of Daniel Suarez’s latest novel, KILL DECISION. A kill decision, in warfare, is typically made by a person and not a machine or computer. If such a decision were taken out of the hands of skilled and trained military forces, the results would be chaotic. Such a situation arises at the start of the book when an unmanned drone strikes against unarmed targets.

A U.S. Reaper drone is captured on live video feed and broadcast around the globe. The problem is that this drone was responsible for firing upon tens of thousands of pilgrims traveling by foot through the Iraqi city of Karbala. Even though the Pentagon denied participation in this tragic attack, it was hard to defend the fact that the Reaper drone --- fully displayed with the American flag insignia on its side --- is the headline story on news channels worldwide.

A Special Ops soldier known simply as Odin is immediately called in to help rectify the situation. Odin and his team of skilled military enforcers already had distaste for the use of drones in warfare, a fact that makes them perfect candidates to get to the bottom of who would be behind utilizing these drones for their own deadly agenda.

In order to stop further drone attacks, they must find someone who can help them understand how they think. When research shows the attack drones to be utilizing insect-like tactics, they quickly narrow their search down to a leading myrmecologist --- Linda McKinney. Linda’s specialty has been the study of weaver ants; it was when her research was stolen that alerted the U.S. military to the fact that weaver ant technology was at the heart of powering an army of autonomous drones.

Linda finds it hard to believe that anyone would use her research to such homicidal ends. It is here where Odin and his team have to share their experience with the horrors of war to convince her that even the most innocent intentions can be used to criminal ends. Odin and Linda make a formidable team, but can even their combined resources be enough to ferret out a faceless enemy who is able to mount an attack by an army of deadly drones at the push of a button?

In his previous novels, DAEMON and FREEDOM, Daniel Suarez expertly explored the world of modern technology with well-researched stories that depicted the potential horrors of artificial intelligence gone mad.  Now, KILL DECISION takes things a step further by once again warning the reader about the very real possibility that technology mixed with warfare can make an extremely lethal combination. His latest combines the thrills of a Tom Clancy book with the in-depth technology of the late Michael Crichton, and the result is a novel of modern warfare for a new generation of techno-thriller fans.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 17, 2012

Kill Decision
by Daniel Suarez