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Daemon by Daniel Suarez

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A fast-paced technological thriller full of inventive ideas and a few surprises. A couple of jumps in the story and a lot of jargon do take the edge off a little.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Quercus Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1847249616

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As the internet grows and technology advances, it's seems there is nothing you can't do. Recent innovations mean you can operate appliances in your own home from another continent and cars are more automated than ever. Huge online games allow users worldwide to interact and play against each other in huge arenas. Thanks to social networking, the internet can be addictive and, yes, I'm aware of the irony in writing that here.

Daemon brings all of these ideas together in a very readable way. Computer genius and game designer Matthew Sobol has died of brain cancer, but death hasn't stopped him being the chief suspect in two murders. But is seems that he prepared for this, even from beyond the grave and when the F B I attempt to search his house for evidence, Sobol becomes responsible for the deaths of many more. But murder is not Sobol's aim, merely a means to an end and his end is control.

Sobol recruits a number of people to his Faction from all occupations; a recently deposed entertainment news reporter, a computer hacker, a prisoner he releases from prison. No matter what the F B I come up with, Sobol seems to have anticipated every move and despite their best efforts, Sobol not only has plans to stay one step ahead but also to frame others for his crimes.

The main idea is nothing new, John McLaren's Press Send is more than a decade old and has a similar basic plot, but Suarez has seemingly grasped the current trends and advances in technology. He embraces the current obsessions with MMORPGs and social networks and Sobol's character works wonderfully within the endless supply of information around on the internet. Anyone who has turned on a computer in recent years will recognise something here, although there is perhaps the minor worry that the whole story may date badly with future technological advances.

The pace is always high, although the plot does sometimes have a tendency to wander. During some of the more computer-based scenes, Suarez does get a little too detailed, as if he's keen to show off a lot of his knowledge. This does slow things down a little, but fortunately, there are plenty of action scenes to pick it up again and there are some incredible set pieces and the further the story goes on, the less the detailed pieces of computer knowledge interfere with the readability of the book.

This is very much a plot-driven story in which machines take more of a part than the people. None of the characters is well-drawn, presented only in the most basic brush strokes. This means neither come across as terribly emotional on either side, which in Sobol's case is understandable, with him being a dead computer construct, but Suarez hasn't done a much better job with many of the others. Fortunately, as with the computer sections, the driving pace and the general excitement of the plot helps the reader put this to one side and just enjoy themselves.

Suarez's imagination seems to be endless and there are none of the endlessly repeated shootouts that are often found in stories like this. Despite all the major scenes of destruction, there is something different every time. The tricks and traps of Sobol's mansion are particularly clever, as is Merritt's quick thinking in defeating many of them.

The one thing that did interrupt the flow of the story for me was where the narrative jumped forward several months in a couple of points. Whilst I suspect the parts in between would only have involved Sobol setting up his Faction, given the way he pulled together the members we got to hear about, this could have proved interesting. The main concern I had with these jumps was that characters were acting in different ways on either side of the jump and it took a little while to settle down after each one.

Ultimately, however, I did enjoy the story. There were a few aspects that interrupted the flow of the story, but the inventiveness of the plot and the generally high pace helped overcome these and turned it into a fascinating and enjoyable read. Apparently there is a sequel due soon and it will be interesting to see if Suarez can retain these aspects through another book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more techno-thriller books, check out Halting State by Charles Stross, which uses similar ideas. You might also enjoy Change Agent by Daniel Suarez.

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