Thursday, December 6, 2012

Power and Programmers: Review of Daemon, by Daniel Suarez

By Margaret Curtis, PhD

The novel Daemon surges with ambiguity. Published by Dutton in 2009, and slated to become a movie, it turns up in a remainder bin at Big Lots in Dunkirk, NY.  Reports of a sequel titled Freedom come chasing after readers, too, but where are they hiding, if Daemon sleeps in a cardboard box, priced at fifty cents?

One challenge lies in the title, which suggests supernatural forces await its audience. Maybe nothing could be farther from the truth—unless computer programs can act like demons, too. Slyly, the author, Daniel Suarez, lets readers decide if programmers function now as Satan once did in theologically trained imaginations.

Suarez pulls no punches in telling readers what his Daemon means: His frontispiece declares: “daemon…A computer program that runs continuously in the background and performs specified operations at predefined times or in response to certain events.” Nevertheless, selected critics claim Suarez’s subject is a computer virus, a biological analogy.

Critics may also label this book a “techno-thriller,” although its plot still waits to be fully unleashed upon an unsuspecting public who haven’t read its revelations. Critics should be reading Suarez’s qualifications to project science fiction from present realities. Read his crisp bio on the book jacket, and beware of Hollywood’s assumptions:

“Daniel Suarez is an independent systems consultant to Fortune 1000 companies. He has designed and developed enterprise software for the defense, finance, and entertainment industries. An avid gamer and technologist, he lives in California. Daemon is his first novel.”

California remains a perfect location for a professional technologist. Wikipedia informs readers: “Despite the development of other high-tech economic centers throughout the United States and the world, Silicon Valley continues to be the leading hub for high-tech innovation and development, accounting for one-third (1/3) of all of the venture capital investment in the United States.

Thus this novel provides perspective on computers from an ultimate insider. Notifications of upcoming events pop into Americans’ in-boxes all the time. They take them for granted. Suarez does not. Americans may also laugh and smile at automated vehicles; they may rejoice, too, at the huge fortunes amassed by tech gurus. Meanwhile, Suarez keeps his eye on power. Read this book ASAP!

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