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Daemon 395

stoolpigeon writes "Have you ever been reading a book or watching a film and as the plot moves to involve some use of technology you begin to brace yourself, and the cringe as you are ripped out of the story by what is an obviously ignorant treatment of matters you know well? Do you find the idea of creating a "gui interface using visual basic" to see about tracking an ip address as more fit for a sitcom rather than crime drama? And if so, have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller? What if someone who grokked our culture and understood our tech wrote something? Would it be great, or would it just get bogged down in the techno babble?" Keep reading for the rest of JR's review.
author Daniel Suarez
pages 448
publisher Dutton Adult
rating 10/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 978-0525951117
summary A techno-thriller with a healthy dose of techno but absolutely zero let down on the thrill
It is not necessary to wonder any longer. Database consultant, geek and now author Daniel Suarez has stepped up to the plate with his effort Daemon and he does not disappoint. This is a techno-thriller with a healthy dose of techno but absolutely zero let down on the thrill. The story gains momentum rapidly and then never lets up. I had a terrible time trying to put it down, eventually just giving up and plowing through in an all nighter. It was worth it.

The story of Daemon's beginnings has already been documented by Wired. Suarez had Daemon finished in 2004 but literary agents found it to be too long and complex. Rather than give up, Suarez pushed ahead on his own and took the self publishing route. The book slowly built up a following and began to be trumpeted by the likes of Feedburner's Rick Klau and Google's Matt Cutts. And sales of the book grew and now it is available via traditional publishing channels with a hard back release in January of 2009.

The book introduces us to Matthew Sobol, genius software engineer and creator of one of the world's most popular MMOs. Sobol is dead when the book begins, having succumbed to brain cancer. But it quickly becomes apparent that while Sobol has moved on out of this life, his code has lived on and his death has triggered events that rapidly take a life of their own. Sobol's code is working so some unknown end and murder is part of the program.

Suarez may push the envelope at times but his deft handling of current tech and the possibilities is at times frightening. There isn't really much here that isn't very possible right now. At no point will a child sit down at a terminal where the operating system is run by flying through a bunch of 3-d buildings surrounded by network traffic that looks like it is flying about. But there are young people, capable and knowledgeable of current tools and vulnerabilities. People who may not fit into society but who are willing to engage in activities that they believe will build a society of their own.

Of course this is fiction and there are some leaps. But the story is so skillfully woven that the reader is never jarred out of it by some glaring error or lapse in understanding. It's easy to slip into what is an incredibly energetic ride all the while thinking, "This could happen." In fact the only real issue I had with the plot was as I thought about the book after I had finished it. Things work out so well for Sobol's software, and that is the biggest stretch for me. I've worked for and with some extremely bright people, but none have ever engineered systems that could achieve such complex goals unattended. That aside, this is an amazing story.

This book really brought back to me the sense of joy I felt in the 80's when I first began to work with personal computers. It was that sense of infinite possibilities brought on by this new technology. I've grown a bit jaded to it all over the years since then. Daemon brought a lot of that rushing back.

And while all the tech aspects of this story are solid, they do not make the story itself. The whole crazy adventure is pushed along by solid characters. These are well written, very real human beings. They are fully fleshed out people with strengths and weaknesses spread out between protagonist and antagonist alike. There are no super heroes and really no super villains, though at times it comes close on both accounts. These characters are locked in an extraordinary series of events that are at times pulling them along and at others they are the ones pushing things forward. Dialogue is believable and well written. All of that is what ultimately makes this such a satisfying and fun read. The tech trappings are just the bonus payoff for the true geek that has been waiting for a story like this.

People who are on the outside, the non-techie types may find this book confusing and hard to understand. That relative that calls you and asks what happened to their toolbar in word that seems to have disappeared may not really get this book. But anyone who spends an appreciable time in our world on-line and plugged in may just find this to be the most entertaining book that they have read in a very long time.

You can purchase Daemon from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Comments Filter:
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:26PM (#26610071) Journal

    have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller?

    No, not even once. Not even after having read this review.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:38PM (#26610237)

    What a nice slashvertisement. Where do I apply to get my fiction mentioned here too?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:55PM (#26610479)

    Yes, but the problem is some people refuse to suspend their disbelief when watching some video, causing them to believe in stuff that shouldn't be happening in the real world. 24 is a famous example; we all know that torture does not work in real life, but the effectiveness of torture on the show has convinced a surprising amount of people in real life that it does...

  • Re:CSI NY (Score:4, Funny)

    by lorenlal ( 164133 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:00PM (#26610579)

    I was more disappointed in Chuck though... When he went to a conference and setup a network for them... Uttering, "OK, I've set you up with a 10 Base-T Ethernet."

    I cried. BuyMoria would've declared war on him had that been the case. Dude was my hero... Thing is, it happens all the freaking time. The Chuck producers need a geek editor... Not even really that... Just someone who knows enough about Geek Squad level tech...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:05PM (#26610633)
    Besides, if you want Charles Stross, you know where to find him.
  • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Funny)

    by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:08PM (#26610673)

    Your complaining about the lack of attention to detail in technology, in a movie that features a guy dressed in a bulletproof bat costume, that has all sorts of great devices that can do darn near anything? Is the batmobile correct? What about the bat-wing?

  • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Funny)

    by sorak ( 246725 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:10PM (#26610693)

    It makes me cringe watching something like Smallville that pulls so much crap as far as hacking goes. It didn't used to be that way but now if someone needs something they walk into a room with a 'wireless device' that pulls information off of the servers automatically. Or wirelessly copies hard drives in matters of seconds. Or so many plots that involve Cloe hacking the NSA/local police/DHS mainframes in a matter of seconds to get that vital piece of information.

    I thought it was unrealistic the way the guy could fly, and how bullets would bounce off his chest.

  • by 0prime ( 792333 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:19PM (#26610847)
    zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance

    Yes, now we can read the name on that credit card of the guy 50 yards in the background of the picture taken with a cellphone camera.
  • Re:Movies (Score:5, Funny)

    by TripleDeb ( 1240154 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:21PM (#26610883)
    Your problem with Battlefield Earth was the technology?? That's like complaining that the horn's broken on a car with no wheels.
  • Re:Movies (Score:5, Funny)

    by genner ( 694963 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:21PM (#26610891)

    Most of time the ignorance is easy to look past and you can just enjoy the movie. I never really had a problem with it in most cases.

    Two Notable Exceptions:

    Wild Wild West - Will Smith, Kevin Kline

    Battle Field Earth - Travolta

    Those two movies took so much license with technology it reminded me of SpongeBob Squarepants and Bikini Bottom.

    SpongeBob was infinitely better than either of those movies.

  • by ErrataMatrix ( 774950 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:21PM (#26610905)
    Your not fooling anyone
  • Re:Movies (Score:3, Funny)

    by kaiidth ( 104315 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:26PM (#26610971)

    I think Travolta would be deeply upset if you suggested that Battle Field Earth misrepresented 'the Tech'.

    The kind authored by LRH, that is.

  • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Funny)

    by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:26PM (#26610973) Homepage
    Some of my college friends decided to make a CSI drinking game where you'd simply drink whenever they used or referred to a technology that didn't actually exist, or simply got their science wrong.

    They had to quit half way through the first episode for health reasons.
  • by tamyrlin ( 51 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:27PM (#26610993) Homepage

    I also groaned when hearing the comment "Hey, this is Unix! I know this!" in jurassic park. However, it turns out that Hollywood gets the last laugh on this one as this is actually a real file manager for IRIX: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fsn [wikipedia.org]

    Although it would certainly have been more impressive if she managed to hack the computer by booting it single user and using the command line...

  • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:50PM (#26611353)
    Stanley Stumpkowitz stared intently into the flat-screen monitor. It was quiet except for the persistent rattle of the keyboard. Unix commands flew from his fingers, his hands gliding across the keys with the grace of a concert pianist. His face was bathed in an eery, bluish white light, which vaguely flickered as the ASCII scrolled up the screen. His eyes narrowed. His teeth clenched.He would catch that hacker even if it killed him.

    Suddenly, he stopped. Was it... no! Impossible! Someone was at the door. Every nerve in his body was aware but his body was as still and silent as a week-old corpse. He waited, but he could sense that the person was still there. They must know I'm down here, thought Stanley. There came a knock. But he did nothing. He waited, it seemed like an eternity. He had expected them to come after him... but not this soon. Now, there was the sound of a hand on the door. The door slowly opened. He said nothing. Stealth was his only option.

    "Stanley! Stanley S. Stumpkowitz!" came the voice, demanding.

    "Yes?" he replied, hesitantly.

    "That TV program you like. Babulon Five? The Science Fiction Channel is having a marathon. I thought you would like to know."

    "OK. Thanks!" said Stanley, "I'll set the DVR."

    "I made you some soup."

    "That's OK. I'm not hungry," he replied

    "You're a growing boy. You need to eat!"

    "I'm 37, mom. I don't need you telling me what to eat."

    "Fine. Be that way. Just ignore me. Break your mother's heart." The door closed. The machine-gun rattle of plastic-on-plastic resumed as his fingers and the keys set into an easy rhythm.

  • by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:03PM (#26611531)

    My Review of Comment #26611353 (Re:Nope. Never.) by user 813711(flyingsquid)

    This comment had me sitting on the edge of my seat. At no point from scrolling from the top of the comment to the bottom was I let down by the gripping realism and hard hitting factual basis of the comment. The protagonist, Stanley Stumpkowitz, is a loosely autobiographical amalgam of the typical /. reader. Finally, someone who gets it! The comment really has everything - real uses of technology like ASCII and DVRs, and a scope wide enough to include the daily dramas we all deal with - our Mom's trying to give us soup.

    My only issue with the comment as written is that Stanley would not only already have known about the "Babulon (sic) Five" marathon via newsgroups and IRC, but would also have a complete collection on his shelf and ripped into high quality open standards copies on his media server.

    Other than that minor quibble, I really liked this post and can't wait for the sequel. Hopefully, we'll find out what kind of soup Stanley's Mom made, and whether he finally is hungry enough to eat it. (My wish: chicken noodle!)

  • by k_187 ( 61692 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:13PM (#26611723) Journal
    I don't know about you, but I say "enhance" whenever I do anything in Photoshop.
  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:17PM (#26611825) Homepage Journal

    He DID already know. The torrents have been waiting for a few days now.

    He usually eschews his mother's soups, preferring delivery pizza or the rare foray out for sushi or more likely 'chinese' buffet. He eats soup when he is sick, which is too often lately.

    It will be 12+ hours before he is hungry enough to eat anything. The Red Bull stash will pull him through. You only need carbs and caffeine to hack, and carbs are optional for short bursts of a few days.

    No further character development, such as the ankle-deep detrius of Starbucks, ramen bowls, gum wrappers, and ruined rolling papers. No mention of the pile of fresh laundry at the foot of the stairs, or the drawer off the tracks on his bureau, the one from his grade school days. Or the one picture on the wall. But SHE will never be spoken of again. Remembered, but never, ever spoken of again. Neither will the motorcycle, or his so-called best friend, or the scholarship to UICU.

    Or it could go in another direction - he could bounce up on Monday morning and flail his way through the subway system to a real job, grinding data into digestible chunks for his boss to use in extracting more money from an unsuspecting public.

  • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:31PM (#26612119) Homepage

    I think you'd have to give up the game for health reasons even if the drink of choice was water. :P

  • by brotheralien ( 961574 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:32PM (#26612149)

    ...and they all fall in love and hive happily ever after.

    Borg chick-lit?

  • by chrome ( 3506 ) <chromeNO@SPAMstupendous.net> on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:44PM (#26614419) Homepage Journal
    I'm a successful novelist, you insensitive clod ... ... oh wait.

APL hackers do it in the quad.