Something I've been trying to change over the last year is how much literature I'm exposed to. After college, I had become acutely aware of how long it had been since I had sat down and read a book. So I started to dig into Audible books and began sifting through one sci-fi title after another.
Daemon was a revelation to me. A book written by an IT professional, Daniel Suarez. It's an absolutely fantastic story of a dead game developer, Matthew Sobol (Gabe Newell comes to mind), who begins to wreak havoc after his death through a distributed daemon he wrote while living.
An audio sample of Daemon from Audible is below to hopefully help grab your interest.
His daemon is scripted to respond to news feeds and other specific events and contingencies. Naturally, with the amount of scripting I've been getting into lately, this was an incredibly appealing concept. It really hits home how powerful your influence can become even after death through technology.
The first book, Daemon, sets the stage for an incredible sequel, Freedom™. Matthew Sobol's gaming background begins to become more and more apparent as he (rather, his daemon) ushers in a new society based on experience level and user rating for each person.
Daniel Suarez not only has a very obvious and clear understanding of technology and what it is capable of, but as the series progresses I began to realize that he also has some very strong political views which were interesting to see ravelled into the technology bits of the story.
Not Exactly Science "Fiction"
One of the things that makes this series so compelling is the plausibility of the whole story. While I don't expect anyone is actually working on anything as grand as Matthew Sobol's daemon, the technology is more or less available to us now. In Daemon, member's of the daemon's society wear HUD glasses that allow them to see and interact with virtual objects overlaid on the real world. This really isn't too far off from what we see now with augmented reality applications like Layar on our mobile phones.
Other technologies used within are far less futuristic, but no less powerful. The daemon can infiltrate financial systems or entire corporations to redistribute wealth or erase it as it chooses. These capabilities have been within our collective grasps for a long time now and have been actively exploited.
The daemon network also makes use of GPS and RFID technology to track people. Mobile phones, credit cards and passports are all traceable and give the daemon eyes in a sense to see where people are and help trigger events.
I would say that the technology, and how it is used in this series, is very much on par with Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother". Nearly everything you read is possible and in some cases is already actively in use.
Ambiguity of Good and Evil
At first, the daemon seems incredibly devious and capable of nothing but evil. Just as the law enforcement and government teams seem to fit the typical "good guy" persona. But like every good story (The Matrix *cough*, *cough*), these lines begin to blur and at times you find yourself switching sides on a whim deciding against certain characters and alongside others.
Sometimes I found myself marvelling at the forethought of Matthew Sobol. And other times horrified at his actions. Sometimes both at once. Every character goes through massive transitions and has to redefine their reality. And amidst all this chaos, the daemon is still running through programs and checking for events.
Gaming and Hacker Culture
Of course, games are a major factor in this series as Matthew Sobol spent his entire career creating them. There are elements of MMORPGs and FPSs. Suarez does not shy away from integrating high-level gaming jargon and terminology into his books. Gaming server lists, ping rates and online play all integrate well into the story. Even items and magical spells from MMORPGs are used extensively throughout.
As you might have guessed, a distributed daemon attack on the entire world also raises the issue of computer security and other elements of hacker culture. Hacking WPA keys on a wireless router and scanning servers for unpatched vulnerabilities explained in great detail that another author might have gleamed over.
Read This Series
Seriously. If you read Little Brother, I guarantee you'll love these two books. If you haven't read Little Brother, go read that one as well!
There's something in this book for nearly every breed of geek imaginable, and it's all tied together expertly. I highly recommend you seek this out in either audiobook format, E-Book, or good old-fashioned dead-trees. Whatever it takes to get you to consume this amazing story.