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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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  • 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.

    • Re:Nope. Never. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kaiidth ( 104315 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:43PM (#26610319)

      I thought it had already been done - Cryptonomicon is about as technically rich as any fiction could ever be without being marketable as a sleep aid. Not perfect, but it surely counts in the 'what if someone who grokked the culture and understood the tech wrote something' category.

      • Re:Nope. Never. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by julesh ( 229690 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:47PM (#26612375)

        Yep. Also worth mentioning is Charlie Stross's Halting State, which is about crime in an MMORPG. No, really. Charlie is, I believe, the only successful novelist with a 4-digit slashdot uid [slashdot.org].

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by chrome ( 3506 )
          I'm a successful novelist, you insensitive clod ... ... oh wait.
      • What about... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SageMusings ( 463344 )

        Anyone remember the Cuckoo's Egg? I quite enjoyed that. It's a bit dated today but it was a hoot when I first picked it up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Besides, if you want Charles Stross, you know where to find him.
    • 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 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:Nope. Never. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by orangesquid ( 79734 ) <orangesquidNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:51PM (#26612465) Homepage Journal

        That's one of the funnier short-anecdote-type jokes I've seen lately. Of course, as one squid to another, I would have expected no less. ;) (consider yourself friended!)

        [Back to the concept at hand...] Any good fiction writer researches any part of the background material he doesn't understand well. Period. I read Michael Crichton's _Next_ recently (about genetic research and its ethical implications), and although the pacing seemed uneven (a few times, I had no trouble putting the book down *g*), I was impressed with the level of research he put into it. [semi-spoiler warning: I'm not spoiling the plot here, but I'm spoiling the 'end' of the book. If you're a big Crichton fan and have not yet read _Next_, you may want to skip the rest of my post.]

        There's an appendix containing a bibliography of his source material and another appendix where he speaks to the reader (i.e., a non-fiction essay) about some of the privacy concerns (et al) he has about genetic research. Most of the news clippings inserted to help the story along are actually real, as he explains in the end. This actually adds an extra dimension to the novel, as you reflect back on the technicalities upon which the plotline is based while you looking at the appendices.

        For most stories, the suspension of disbelief is critical, and having the author come out from behind the curtain at the end and tell you how everything worked can take away from the enjoyment, but for stories whose plotlines revolve largely around technicality and detail (probably the kind of stories a lot of slashdot readers prefer, anyway---I can't tell you how many times I've re-read Asimov's Robot stories and pondered the elements of logic that play out), it does add something really neat.

        When you pay attention to detail and are familiar with the subject at hand, the suspension of disbelief necessary for enjoying fiction can only come about when the writer has done good research or is already an expert.

    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:06PM (#26611571)
      If you want technical accuracy then I suggest reading one of those O Reilly animal books. It would by no means be a thriller.
      A techie might cringe when the laws of physics get abused. A relationship psychologist probably cringes when reading chicklit and they all fall in love and hive happily ever after. A ballistics expert probably cringes when the good guy manages to fire two head shots at 50 yards. A real forensic scientist spews when CSI can solve a crime between two ad breaks.

      All works of fiction are just fiction for entertainment purposes. Get over it.

  • Just two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:30PM (#26610133) Journal

    Andromeda Strain [wikipedia.org] oh... two more words, "insomnia cure"

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oroborous ( 800136 )
      Andromeda Strain wasn't written by a geek! It was written by a cheeky medical doctor who (like all clinicians) thinks he knows science, but really just knows how to read abstracts. No way a true geek would create Jeff Goldblum's horrifically bad mathematician character in Jurassic Park!
    • Re:Just two words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@ajsBOYSEN.com minus berry> on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:08PM (#26610663) Homepage Journal

      Well, Andromeda Strain was for a less TV-indulged generation. ;-)

      But seriously, there's lots of good tech written by people who know their stuff. In some cases, they're even popular.

      Authors include:

      • Michael Crichton
      • Neal Stephenson
      • Vernor Vinge

      Also, there's some good movies out there when it comes to technical realism. My favorite is a science fiction film by the name of Primer. It was shot on a $7000 budget, and is the only movie I know of that literally requires a giant Gant chart to figure out.

  • CSI NY (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bill Dimm ( 463823 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:34PM (#26610193) Homepage

    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?

    In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dedazo ( 737510 )

      My guess is that's why it was mentioned.

      The video was recently removed from YouTube due to a DMCA takedown request, IIRC. I'm sure there are copies out there.

      • My guess is that's why it was mentioned.

        I assume so. I just thought it was odd that the poster danced around exactly which show did it ("crime drama").

        • 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...

        • I linked to a clip of it on youtube when I submitted the review. But it sounds like the clip has been pulled and so the editor must have pulled the link.

    • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:42PM (#26610291) Homepage Journal

      What bothers me is when movies like the Dark Knight, with gigantic budgets do things like lift a fingerprint from a bullet hole in the wall or use everyone's cell phone as a radar device. That movie is so great but it is also really cringe-worthy when the entire plot relies and revolves around these.

      • 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, Informative)

          by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:02PM (#26612653) Homepage

          Well yeah, because they'd already put a lot of attention to detail into it! For instance if you recall, at the beginning of the movie his bat costume was bullet proof, but not dog proof, and he had to make the very realistic sacrifice of mobility to gain the all-important dog-proofing.

      • Techno-nonsense in shows has made me cringe more than once. There was an episode of Burn Notice where something was to be covertly X-rayed in the trunk of a car. Energized by a stun-gun, the radiation source was an electron gun broken off of a television picture tube (c.r.t.).
        Nevermind that not under vacuum that would be no more than a few arcing pieces of metal.

        Now if they pulled a shunt-regulator tube out of an old set from a thrift store...

      • The previous Batman movie was much worse. SPOILER ALERT!!!

        A microwave device with enough energy to instantly boil all water in the vicinity - but spares humans? Give me a break. That ending ruined a perfectly good action flick.
      • Re:CSI NY (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld@gmaMONETil.com minus painter> on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:23PM (#26610927)

        See, I give movies like Dark Knight a pass when they do things like that, simply because everything else is so surrealistic and overblown that having the 'tech' portion the same way really isn't that inconsistant.

        You don't walk away from a Batman movie (either the new 'reboot' ones, the old 'reboot' ones that Tim Burton started, or even the old Adam West ones) thinking "Oh yeah, that totally could have happened in real life."

        On the other hand, while Jurassic Park was also definatly not 'real', a good portion of the story was dedicated to the idea "maybe this could actually happen, maybe", so having a completely bogus computer scene was completely out of place. Lets not even get into things like "Hacking the Gibson" in movies like Hackers that had actual (although abortive) attempts at authenticity but completely failed the moment those moments were over.

    • Re:CSI NY (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sketerpot ( 454020 ) <sketerpot@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:42PM (#26610293)
      See, this is part of why Veronica Mars is such a great show. The tech is unobtrusively right. The hacking is less Hollywood and more "open up a guy's laptop when he's out of the room and copy some of his files onto your flash drive".
    • This is just begging for someone to make a working version.. but maybe in tcl/tk... One button that says in bold letters, "TRACK IP". Then grab the output of a traceroute or tracert then beep and boop every single character as the output is played back to the screen.

    • "gui interface using visual basic"

      In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

      I've considered the entire CSI franchise to be cringe-worthy right from the outset.

    • Re:CSI NY (Score:4, Insightful)

      by genner ( 694963 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:11PM (#26610723)

      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?

      In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

      I thoguht CSI NY was a sitcom.

    • Nothing beats the CSI image processing, unless it was the video manipulation to see what was behind the chap in 'Enemy of the State'.
    • Re:CSI NY (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:25PM (#26610963) Journal

      If you think the grasp of technology in CSI is cringe-worthy, check out their grasp on the law and rights. The basic attitude of the show is that the accused is always guilty, and police work is all about getting the evidence to convict, not to find out the truth. If anyone on that show is ever released due to insufficient evidence, it's an injustice of unimaginable magnitude. Fundamental rights like Due Process are portrayed as the enemy of justice.

      I don't care about science or tech gaffes so much. But the whole show is pro-law enforcement propaganda, and that's just unwatchable.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Yaur ( 1069446 )
      I don't watch the show... but really whats wrong with building a GUI in VB to track IPs. I would rather write an tool that does it correctly than try to teach the average detective how to use traceroute and do IP/AS look-ups based on the results. Sure VB isn't the language I would use but we are talking about a simple automation tool, so whatever your developer happens to know will probably work better than picking the best language for the job.
      • I didn't watch the show either, but I get the impression it wasn't so much a developer saying "here's a tool you can use next time you need to track IPs" as the resident techie saying "Sure, I can hack together a tool to track IPs, let me fire up my GUI editor"

  • by perlhacker14 ( 1056902 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:35PM (#26610203)

    People watch movies for entertainment, or for thrills - not for technological enlightenment. Tech in movies has a role meant to captivate the layperson - to keep them hooked; it is of no consequence whether it is acurate - it SOUNDS cool, and thus grips the viewer. In real life, it is similar to a high school wanna-be-nerd spewing out long and convoluted words to impress some peon... It seems to work.
    For the enlightened on /.: please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking - if it bothers you, then IGNORE it.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:54PM (#26610467) Homepage Journal

      For the enlightened on /.: please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking - if it bothers you, then IGNORE it.

      Honestly, it depends on how much of it there is. One or two pieces of techno-babble, particularly if they're in service to the plot, fine. Someone mentioned the cell phone sonar setup in Dark Knight; there's an example of something that makes basically no sense, but it was fun and it helped move the story along, so what the hell. But when it's done over and over again (e.g. Star Trek's fictional subatomic particle of the week) or when real science and/or technology would work for the plot just as well, it gets more difficult to ignore. "Willing suspension of disbelief" is not the same as "believe six impossible things before breakfast."

      I'm a veteran, who served as both an infantryman and a medic; I've also been a software engineer, and am now a scientist (specifically bioinformatics.) So between the all the bad military stuff, bad medicine, bad tech stuff, and bad science in movies and TV, I end up cringing at gratuitous bullshit a lot. Pretty much any "exotic" field like the above that you put in your story, there's a good bet that someone in your audience -- a fair portion of your audience, actually -- is going to catch the really dumb mistakes and bitch about them. Also being an occasional SF writer, I try to consult with people who have some experience in the field whenever I'm writing about something too far outside my expertise. Most people are happy to talk about what they know, and getting a couple of small details right instead of drastically wrong can greatly improve the story for those in the know, without losing the general audience.

      • by anss123 ( 985305 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:05PM (#26610635)
        I don't really care about tech errors. The Hollywood 'nerd' character annoys me much more.
        • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Monday January 26, 2009 @03:15PM (#26610795) Homepage Journal

          Oh, that bugs the hell out of me too. It's really the same kind of error: the people making the movie or TV show just don't know anything about X, so they just grab a convenient stereotype for X, whether X is a person, a type of technology, a profession, or even a whole society. Techies, scientists, medical personnel, and soldiers get this treatment a lot, and those are the ones I pick up on, but I'd guess that a lot of other types of people get it too, and react similarly. Cops and lawyers are obvious examples -- and for American movies and TV, pretty much anyone from any country that isn't the US, not to mention Americans from any part of the country that isn't New York or LA.

    • Yeah, but there's also this phenomenon called suspension of disbelief. It's what makes works of fiction believable. For instance, I can't stand Transformers, not for the robot characters, but for the completely unbelievable stunts and stretches of the laws of physics that the human characters went through, especially towards the end of the movie. For me, suspension of disbelief stopped about halfway through that movie, while other radically-different movies worked great, such as The Matrix. I would cons
    • I think that most of the comments around here seem to indicate that us tech folks are perfectly capable of ignoring the really bad use of technology in shows and movies. Hence the term "cringe" - you cringe at the use of the tech but you still watch.

      There's times, though, when it's just plain aweful and it CAN wreck the story. Like the Batman movie that for some reason everyone's drooling about - the cell phone radar thing? Ohh, c'mon. I know the story is fiction but it's supposed to be grounded in real
      • There's times, though, when it's just plain aweful and it CAN wreck the story. Like the Batman movie that for some reason everyone's drooling about - the cell phone radar thing? Ohh, c'mon. I know the story is fiction but it's supposed to be grounded in reality and that's just too much. They could have easily just used something else that actually COULD exist and it wouldn't have made the whole thing so cheezy.

        See, the cell-phone gimmick didn't diminish my enjoyment of the movie at all. A guy had half (exactly half) of his face burned off, FFS! But the cell phone made the "whole thing cheezy"!?

        So a movie tramples some minutia that a minority of people happen to know more than average about, and suddenly they are convinced that the world gives a crap about how fake it is?

        Perhaps it is the movies fault for not being immersive enough to rip you away from your tedious nit-picking. So be it, but I feel sorry for y

    • by ajs ( 35943 )

      People watch movies for entertainment, or for thrills - not for technological enlightenment.

      Yes, absolutely! However, it's possible to be accurate without being dogmatic, while being entertaining as well. It's rare and a breath of fresh air when it happens.

      There's nothing wrong with dramatic license. I don't think anyone who plays World of Warcraft, for example, watched the South Park episode about it and thought, "that's my life!" ... at least, I hope not. Then again, it was mostly spot-on and had clearly been written by someone who played the game. Hyperbole and simplification are one thing. Sho

    • Tech in movies has a role meant to captivate the layperson - to keep them hooked; it is of no consequence whether it is acurate - it SOUNDS cool, and thus grips the viewer.

      Everything, tech or otherwise, in movies, TVs, most novels, and most other entertainment products has that purpose, but getting stuff blatantly and laughably wrong can break people's suspension of disbelief. For different people that happens at different points, but when it happens, it can ruin the views enjoyment of the product.

      So, its

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The suspension of disbelief is completely jarred when you run into technology that just doesn't work. With "The Matrix" and similar movies, they make the world so radically different that the suspension of disbelief is an all or nothing: you either believe in the world or you don't, and you have to leave your assumptions at the door. With things set in the modern world, they're trying to use your pre-existing knowledge. In the case of most movies, they mess it up badly, which is jarring to someone who knows
    • I can enjoy a film without nitpicking. For example, I can enjoy a film with terrible special effects if it has a good story. However, I'd enjoy it much more if it excelled with both the story and the effects.

      It's the same with technological themes. I can overlook errors, but if a film goes to the effort to get things right, it's a better experience. And considering how easy it would be to find a technical consultant to tweak a script, it's frustrating when they don't bother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Why does it bother you so much if I get more fun out of nitpicking a film rather than simply watching it? Unless I'm in the theater with you, I just don't see how this affects you. If our nitpicking bothers you, IGNORE it.

  • Movies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:39PM (#26610257)

    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.

    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kaiidth ( 104315 )

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

      The kind authored by LRH, that is.

    • Oh, come on. Battlefield Earth was terrible for so many more reasons than the "tech".

      But Wild Wild West? I think it gets a bad rap. It's one of those movies where you know there's going to be a giant mechanical spider before you sit down. If you can't handle that, don't watch it; it's not your kind of movie.

      • PS: Watch An Evening with Kevin Smith to hear some hilarious backstory to how that spider actually got in the movie.

  • Generous Author (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pdragon04 ( 801577 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:42PM (#26610297)
    Friend of mine got a copy of this book roughly a year ago back when he wrote/published it under his pseudonym (Leinad Zeraus) and let me borrow it on the condition I'd send a review back to them. I did so very enthusiastically, thanking him for a great novel!

    About a month ago I finally got a response back directly from the author thanking me for supporting his early work. He asked for my address so he could send me a thank you. Last friday I received a package that contained signed copies of both the original and now mass market hard cover! :)
  • Have you not seen the crap that was The Net? [imdb.com] This movie is about a computer hacker/code tester whose life gets hijacked by other hackers. It was dumb and probably one of the worst thrillers I've ever seen. The closest movie that was interesting while at the same time technological-ish would have to be Primer [imdb.com]. Check this out if you want more details. It's not exactly as much technological as it is paradoxical, but it seems to get at the techno-thriller genre (somewhat).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Primer is brilliant, but it does have its technobabble moments (as close as I can remember it):

      "Come on, what's the variable you can always change, in mechanics, in the Feynman diagrams without changing anything?"


      (putting pedant hat on)

      While this is accurate (most classical, and for that matter quantum theories are invariant under time reversal), this isn't true for weak interactions or thermodynamics, for example. Also, it struck me at the time as something real people, real physicists wouldn't

      • by tobiah ( 308208 )

        I found Primer rather irritating, it was way too focused on the tech and mostly failed on the character/plot level. I think this problem of overtly displaying the Big Idea is not juist limited to tech, you see it all of the time in movies with a moral, or some clever cinematography. The artist then becomes to focused on that theme and forgets to make it entertaining.
        Star Trek's "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is a classic example of doing it right, it's about racial intolerance and has unbelievable tech

  • Some other examples (Score:5, Informative)

    by tamyrlin ( 51 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:50PM (#26610425) Homepage

    There is already some other fiction written by authors with in-depth knowledge of computers.

    * In Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson computers and computer hackers are portrayed pretty accurately.

    * Atrocity Archive by Charles Stross is obviously written by someone who knows computers and most of all sysadms very well. Although I really hope that he doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to using computers to summon demons from the fractal dimensions... :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by chemguru ( 104422 )

      Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll

    • One of the parts I liked in Cryptominicon was where he described how software used to minimize bandwidth during teleconferencing could be modified in short order to rig a laptop to take a picture every time somebody stepped in front of it. That moment told me that he truly understood software.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Angostura ( 703910 )

      No-one's mentioned Gibson yet, so I will. Neuromancer was clearly science fiction and clearly featured technology far removed from what was then available. And yet the technology was clearly reasonable.

  • by Shag ( 3737 )

    Encyclopedia Brown would have sorted this all out in a lot fewer pages.

    (Am I the only one who has this namespace collision?)

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      Holy crap thanks for making me remember those books I read as a kid!!!

      Man I have to hunt down some copies...

  • Generally I find it funny, even enjoyable when a movie flat out gets it wrong. The only occasions where I've felt like throwing my drink at the screen are when the movie almost gets it right and then at the last second screws the whole thing up. Thankfully this almost never happened.

  • I've never understood why it's done that way in movies, are they trying to dumb down things so the masses understand? Cause they still don't, it goes right over their head anyway.

    I can understand some: the character is hacking into another computer, so masses can all understand the screen has to have in bright red flashing letters 'Hacking into another computer ... complete!' but couldn't even non-techies read between the lines and derive he hacked into another computer from the scene. Other movie genres do

  • I'll pass (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday January 26, 2009 @02:59PM (#26610559)

    What if someone who grokked our culture and understood our tech wrote something?

    We'd be so bored we'd finally forgive Swordfish for the blowjob hacking scene? Part of the reason why we consume escapist entertainment is because real life is boring. Do we want to imagine the pretty heroine all made up in perfect makeup and lounging about her luxury flat in lace teddies or do we want the reality where she's wearing her comfy fluffy bathrobe that hides everything, bunny slippers, has a towel around her wet hair and has her face covered with some cosmetic mask cream?

    Ok, having said that, I still cringe at bad tech scenes. "The Cylons can hack any computer that's networked, even if there's not a wireless access point anywhere on the battlestar! Just the act of running a cable from one primitive computer to another will give them a way in!" Or "Hey, this is Unix! I know this!" Or when someone is using the internet and they're instructed to bang away at random on the keyboard when they'd really be mousing around in an undramatic fashion while reading what's on the screen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Leafheart ( 1120885 )

      We'd be so bored we'd finally forgive Swordfish for the blowjob hacking scene?

      What? that was the only good part of the whole movie. With that "method" of creating worms, you will nitpick with a fairly gratuitous and at the same time awesome blowjob? I pray for your soul.

    • 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...

  • Am I the only one here who has read the Stealing the network series? Very real tech and good stories to go with that.
  • 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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by k_187 ( 61692 )
      I don't know about you, but I say "enhance" whenever I do anything in Photoshop.
  • The lack of writers everywhere, not just Hollywood (although the problem is acute there) - leads to a morass of bad fiction. Contemporary or even sci-fci. Who out there in Slashdot-dom could not tell when the spirit of Roddenberry and what TOS was trying to achieve left with his death, and the Paramount hacks took over?

    It happened in TNG, and you could start to tell when the stories became character driven, and it became a soap opera in space. Will Deanna Troi hook up with Riker? Who the fuck cares?

    • So far, outside of the South Park episode that mocked World of Warcraft (hilarious, yes) I haven't seen WoW or Guild Wars or any MMO mentioned in a popular feature film, or even YouTube used as a plot device, Twitter or even a realistic depiction of GPS technology. That will all change. The Bourne films started it, with grabbing a SIM card from a airport vendor and using it to dodge the CIA - we will see more savvy use of tech tips and tricks in the years to come used cogently by the screenwriters.

      There was a Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode that dealt with MMOs IIRC.

      That said, I am confident that there are vastly more people who care whether Troi and Riker hook up than believe that WoW deserves a more rigorous treatment within popular entertainment. There is tech savvy, and there is marketing savvy. That is why the Bourne series is still 99% Matt Damon punching, kicking, stabbing and shooting people.

      I doubt that a significant portion of the audience noticed or cared about SIM cards, nor do I

  • Numbers Isn't Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <logicnazi@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 26, 2009 @08:06PM (#26615399) Homepage

    I mean they don't make a secret of the fact that Charlie (the lead actor) has superhuman skills and sometimes his attempts to explain the math the the lay people aren't the best but the math is all solid and most of the applications are plausible. I mean the game theory/psychology ones are pushing it a little but the math is at least as plausible as anything on a crime drama is.

    I mean shows spice up every element to make it more appealing. The cases always involve interesting coincedences or cunning criminals. Everyone knows that real investigators don't end up kidnapped so often or that real serial killers aren't perfect masterminds. We accept that the main charachters never trip at the last minute and die rather than saving the day because we want a good narrative that's fun to watch not a documentary about solving crimes.

    As long as the math and science are treated just like the other elements in the show I'm happy. Sure, make the hero more awesome than most people and let his hail mary passes turn out to work as long as you don't make false claims or misrepresent how the math/science works. Numbers lives up to this and that's all I want.

    Besides, I want more cute mathematicians depicted on TV...we could use more girls in the field.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!