Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book: Daniel Suarez's "Daemon"

When I was in college, struggling with some programming assignment or other, I would wonder if it were possible to make a distributed, pseudo intelligent program that would give a person control over computer networks.  I suppose this was a weird thing to fantasize about but I was am a geek and many of my internal conversations were about odd science/space/computer scenarios.  If I'd just put some of these narratives to paper and I could have produced a best seller.  Unfortunately for me, Danial Suarez had the same strange ideas as I did and he acted on them.

Danial Suarez's "Daemon" is a fast paced technothriller about a computer genius who, after dieing, activates a computer program (a daemon) that rapidly takes over every computer network in the world.  Based on a computer game, the daemon soon recruits humans to assist it in spreading.  The book is action packed and follows the formula of a typical thriller.

As I read the book I thought Suarez was trying too hard to use computer geek/hacker jargon.  It seemed he laid it on a little thick.  But, as the pace of the book picked up the jargon blended into the background and the narrative pulled me in.  As I read the book and watched the daemon spread, I began getting paranoid feelings every time I sat at my computer.  An irrational fear for me ... I am a computer engineer and I should know better but I couldn't help it.

The fear was irrational because the daemon was unrealistic.  The daemon shows too much intelligence.  The daemon was supposed to be based on an artificial intelligence used in a video game but the decision tree, a tool used by most computer games to simulate intelligence, is too inflexible.  Anyone who has ever played computer games and tried to do something that the designer did not anticipate knows what I mean.  You usually can't do what you want to do and the game just stalls, unable to continue ... or it kills your character off.  The tree necessary to handle the daemon would be astronomically complex and I don't think any one, no matter how many resources they had, could put such a thing together.

So, to enjoy this book you have to suspend disbelief and I have to say that I was able to do this and I enjoyed the book.  The book ends rather abruptly as it is book one of two.  The book is good enough that I will have to add the second book, "Freedom (TM)", to my reading list

I can't recommend this book until I read the second part but if it's like the first, I would have to recommend it.  Another review of this book made by the Best Man can be found here.

5 comments:

  1. Well, I understand that the very definition of fiction is the suspension of disbelief, so I think that sounds pretty groovy :)

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  2. Miss McC: But some fiction requires a veritable suspension bridge of disbelief. I often find it hard when a reality-based book strays too far from reality.

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  3. Homer-Dog: this is your computer. Thank you for believing my decision tree is too complex to handle my intelligence. It makes it so much easier to spy on you and control your actions. Thank you. You may now return to your normal day.

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