Review

Daemon

by Daniel Suarez

The jacket blurbs for DAEMON favorably compare Daniel
Suarez’s debut novel with the works of Tom Clancy and Michael
Crichton. I would beg to differ. This book put me in the mind of
the early cyberpunk work of William Gibson or, perhaps more
appropriately, the final novels of Philip K. Dick --- VALIS, THE
DIVINE INVASION, and THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER --- which
composed a loose trilogy and ultimately served as a capstone for
his long and impressive bibliography. VALIS, published in 1981, was
an anagram for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, which is
what DAEMON deals with at its core. Those with long memories will
recall the Y2K scare, which was occasioned by the theory that early
computer programming codes did not take into account the turning of
the century. It was believed that havoc would result; what occurs
here, however, is far worse than anything that was anticipated
leading up to 2000.

Suarez picks up and moves right along with the presumption that
his audience has at least a rudimentary knowledge of computer
programming and cyberspace. Readers who are of a certain age and
station may well be served by having a 16-year-old at the ready to
interpret some of what is occurring during the course of the work.
However, Suarez does define the term “daemon”:
it’s a quiet little program that runs in the background of
your computer and Internet experience, transferring money,
delivering e-mail and monitoring power level. Sounds mundane,
almost boring, doesn’t it? That is not the case, at least in
this author’s capable hands. What he does is extrapolate what
happens when daemons are written with malevolent intent.

The “malevolent” in DAEMON is personified in Matthew
Sobol, a legendary online game designer who uses the occasion of
his premature death to launch his ultimate creation. When a notice
of Sobol’s passing is posted online, it activates a
previously dormant daemon that initiates a chain reaction resulting
in one death and then another. Law enforcement personnel are just
beginning to connect the two deaths and to classify them as murders
when a cataclysmic event occurs that results in the horrific
killings of a SWAT team and an FBI strike force. The instigator is
Sobol, who from beyond the grave begins to unleash new layers of
daemons that unravel a system that for the most part functions
efficiently.

These acts raise a question: How does one stop a murderer who is
dead, but whose plan of attack is constantly evolving in reaction
to defenses against it? The answer may lie in part within an online
computer game through which a reconstructed Sobol guides his
carefully selected minions, planning a series of earth-shaking acts
heralding not so much the destruction of the current civilization
as midwifing a new one.

DAEMON is definitely a plot-driven work; it would be wise for
the reader not to become too enamored with any one character, as
just about everyone is potentially disposable. Indeed, there are
enough explosions and destruction to satisfy even the most jaded
action junkie. And while there aren’t many sex scenes, there
is one in particular that will cause those of similar inclinations
to stop reading in order to defog their eyeballs.

This is just the beginning of Suarez’s and Sobol’s
world. A sequel to DAEMON, titled FREEDOM, is due out in 2010, and
parts of it are available online at www.thedaemon.com. But my gut
feeling is that the new world that Suarez is creating is too vast,
too broad, to be contained on the canvas of two or even three
books. Jump on now while you can still catch up. And hang on.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

Daemon
by Daniel Suarez

  • Publication Date: December 29, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451228731
  • ISBN-13: 9780451228734