2008/12/03 Andreas Jungherr

The Daemon in the Machine

Daemon” by Leinad Zeraus, a pseudonym by the author Daniel Suarez, is a great piece of speculative fiction. It reads like a worst case scenario of a networked society gone spectacularly wrong.

The death of Über-Game-Designer Matthew Sobol sets a surprising chain of events in motion. Before his death Sobol designed a computer program that automatically scans the internet for news of his death. After his death this daemon starts automatic protocols which in the end destabilize the global economy and challenge national security.

With his novel Daniel Suarez emphasizes different aspects of our time which are usually ignored by so-called serious fiction. Suarez’ characters are mostly digitally natives who are battling an older generation who fondly plays with the idea of “shutting down the internet”. He shows the emerging culture of Multiplayer Video Games and weaves them as a different layer into reality, a layer which remains invisible to most onlookers. Yet the author does not restrict his story to the digital realm. He also addresses issues of the ongoing privatization of security and shows a world which is increasingly governed by global corporations.

“Daemon” reads at times like a dramatization of non-fiction books on computer security, sociology, economics and futurology. The author points among others to works by P. W. Singer, Kevin Phillips and Jared Diamond. This stylistic device reminds of Neal Stephenson who anchored his “Baroque Cycle” on the works by the French historian Fernand Braudel. This process is greatly entertaining because it shows the rather abstract ideas of non-fiction writers in glorious technicolor. It also gives the novels more relevance and grounding in present day science then can be normally expected from fictional work.

Initially Suarez self-published his novel. The success of “Daemon” let the Penguin books imprint Dutton to acquire the rights to Daemon and its sequel Freedom TM.

Recently Suarez gave a talk about his book at the Long Now Foundation. There is a video of the event at Fora TV.

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