© 2010 Daniel Suarez
The global economy is crashing, nearing its end, but few are willing to recognize it. The sinking markets, soaring inflation and unemployment, and civil chaos are regarded by those in power as merely another hiccup, one which can be weathered out with enough money thrown at the problem. But away from the old centers of power, inside server rooms and sewer tunnels, a new order is being created — one driven by the vision of a legendary AI programmer, now deceased, whose death triggered the activation of a distributed AI intelligence which — in the events of Daemon — began spreading and recruiting human agents to effect its will. In the midst of a global depression, many are dropping out of the old economy and tuning into another: the darknet economy of the Daemon, But the one cannot tolerate the other, and in Freedom™, we witness their final grapple.
Both Daemon and Freedom™ are all kinds of interesting; the former, for its technical premise; the latter, for its sociological premise. The Daemon has evolved from the first novel, though I don’t want to go into many details for fear of spoiling anything. Suffice it to say….the cold, ominous voice in the head no longer stars here, but rather what it and its human recruits have created does. The distributed intelligence of the Daemon is becoming a distributive economy and democracy, one counter to the globalized commercial order. The imprint of the Daemon’s creator, Sobol is still very strong, as agents are ranked by classes and levels and given quests to fulfill; those who succeed gain levels and access to additional technological abilities made possible by the augmented reality that Daemon agents live in. However, the members of this new society also guide its goals, and the quest of a main character is to prove that humanity merits freedom rather than total control by the Daemon.
Any adult will recognize the imprint of the 2008 recession on this book, from the anxiety and fear over the economic future to the outrage over abuses of corporate power. Anti-corporatism pervades this book, in part because their greed and corruption has created the global crisis– not just the inflation and such, but increasing fragility of people and nations, depending on as they do delicate ribbons of trade and a steady stream of raw materials mined without a thought to the future. The corporate powers also target the darknet counter-economy, fighting against it through means both subtle and obvious. As with Daemon, I truly didn’t know where the novel was going to end until we’d arrived. What’s most fascinating about Freedom, though, is Suarez’ implied argument about the inherent fragility of global society and the need for social structures which are more resilient.
Daniel Suarez is so effective a writer that after I finished this, I started reading Daemon again — just to experience the chilling birth of the series once more. I’ve gotta see if Suarez’s craft is so strong when he’s not basing his story on his experience as a network engineer and D&D dungeonmaster, and so I have purchased his Kill Decision and Change Agent, tech thrillers about autonomous drones and biotech respectively.
Triangulation interview with Suarez about his book “Change Agent”; extensive interview which goes into the writing of Daemon and Freedom.