Saturday, December 01, 2018

48. Freedom by Daniel Suarez

The paperback is an odd shape,
1/2" taller and 1/4" narrower
than a standard paperback
Freedom is the sequel to Daemon, where a techbro turns himself into a decentralized algorithm on the internet and basically takes it over.  Most of the Daemon was about the investigation into his death and seeing the effects of the daemon as it slowly implemented its master plan.  It was mostly a murder mystery with a cool internet concept behind it (Ready Player One but the AI is evil).

In Freedom, we get a much broader scope.  The subtexts of daemon (multinationals being out of control, decentralized vs centralized control over information, old versus new) are pretty much the main substance of Freedom.  There is definitely a story here, but it feels like Suarez main motivation was to share his ideas about how the internet can change the world for good or evil.  I am usually turned off when authors of fiction spend a lot of time explaining, but here he is preaching to the converted and doing it in a pretty entertaining way.  I can imagine some would grow a bit weary of scenes like a Laguna Indian woman (who is a 22nd level tech shaman in the Darknet) explaining the high tech self-sustaining community they are developing on their reservation or the salt of the earth farmer lamenting how he became a slave to agribusiness and the evil of the global supply chain.  I gobbled them up.

And that's what is really fun about this book.  It was written in 2010 and while some of the details already seem obsolete in the age of fakenews, he is nevertheless broadly quite accurate in seeing how the man will use technology to suppress. It's not always totally coherent, but basically the good guys are the people who have signed on to the daemon's Darknet.  They all walk around in glasses with virtual reality HUDs so they can see the Darknet around them.  People and locations who are part of the Darknet have callouts that show their level, their value, etc.  The decentralized production method that helped them develop deadly weapons and extort opponents of the daemon in the first book is now being used to transform America's blighted economy, especially in the rural midwest into self-sufficient community cells.  The bad guys are the corporate and military elite who want to destroy the daemon that has infected their network and eliminate this new culture that is undermining the structure that keeps them in power.

It gets a bit cartoony and the storylines of the various characters are inconsistent.  As my wife pointed out, particularily glaring is the one female character's utter lack of doing anything ever than just being ferried around from place to place, told things and then fulfilling her romantic quest from the first book (with one of the main male protagonists who gets a lot more actual action).  None of the stories of the characters from the first book really get played out fully satisfactorily.  I think it was a deliberate choice, to keep the book small and more digestible so I am not totally critical.  Just wish they had at least included one of the women's stories and made it richer and more interesting.

Fun stuff, though, I am on board.

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