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Freedom™
Daniel Suarez
Quercus Publishing, 368 pages

Freedom
Daniel Suarez
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.

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SF Site Review: Daemon

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A review by Nathan Brazil

'If you cooperate, I can give you your old life back. I can undo this curse Sobol cast on you. Make Detective Sebeck live again. Clear his name. Turn him into a hero.'

Sebeck just shook his head. 'I'm not the person I was then, and I don't want to be. I've seen the truth now.'

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Freedom™ is a direct continuation of the themes begun in the author's debut novel, Daemon, and reading that title first is essential. Once again, the cast are all players in the world-changing plans set in motion by deceased on-line game guru, Matthew Sobol. The character continues to appear periodically as an avatar, reacting to events in the manner of what gamers know as an NPC; non-player character. In other words, the author resists any temptation he may have had to resurrect Sobol as a ghost in the machine, and always makes it clear that any thoughts or actions attributed to him are of the pre-recorded kind. Neither does Sobol's Daemon achieve any kind of unrealistic sentience. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the book is the restraint shown, creating an engrossing, fast-paced tale of speculative fiction, which occasionally veers close to the edge of credibility but never falls over. It's a tricky balance that Daniel Suarez manages with aplomb.

As the story opens, the Daemon has the upper hand in global commerce, and is facilitating the rise of Darknet communities across the world. These are run by tech savvy folks who want to rebuild civilization from the ground up, using sustainable methods for the production of food and energy, and manufacturing locally. An interesting slant on democracy comes from the way majority decisions are reached; the entire interaction of Darknet members, locally and across the connected world, is influenced by personal standing. Reputations are displayed in D-Space for all to see, and people react accordingly. It's an element taken from on-line gaming, and made to work in a real world setting. For now, Suarez avoids the thorny issue of rogue Darknet members deliberately hacking their own stats, the system, etc., but that may be dealt with in a future adventure. This time around the focus is on what the powerful elites of the world are doing to combat the Daemon, as they assemble private armies and concoct murderous strategies to snatch back power. A major part of this -- overseen by a character called the Major -- is to begin a civil war within the United States, against Darknet communities, which are branded as terrorist factions by the state controlled media. The ruthlessness and brutality with which the old guard tries to reclaim its influence is something that the author depicts very realistically, at times using graphic violence. Running alongside the vast and sweeping changes wrought by this enforced information revolution, is the story of former detective Pete Sebeck, now the Unnamed One, and on a quest imposed by the Daemon. His purpose is to determine whether humanity is worthy of being allowed its freedom.

IT specialist Jon Ross, cryptography expert Natalie Phillips, Loki Stormbinger and even a version of Roy Merrit, are all back for more, and dabbling with the kind of tech guaranteed to make any fan of near future gadgetry drool. In most cases the character development was less than I'd hoped for, yet sufficient, due to the fact that, as with Daemon, the story is the true star. Most intriguing, for me, was what Suarez does with his infamous, advanced AI character, SS officer Heinrich Boerner, which blurs the line between true sentience and mere code. Ultimately, whether someone like Sobol and his Daemon could actually set in motion a seismic shift in the global economy and social structure, is debatable. But as the author demonstrates, it is not beyond possibility. Indeed, it might be argued that what is depicted could form the basis of a new world order run by the masses. Whether humanity is able to lead itself is another open question. Back in grubby reality the geeks may not quite be ready to inherit the Earth, but Suarez shows that they could be our best hope against corporate enslavement. Freedom™ and its predecessor are not a blueprint for techno revolution, but they do provide abundant food for thought, cracking entertainment, and a glittering view of what might be the shape of things to come.

Copyright © 2010 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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