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Don't Be a Cog in the Wheel

By Tyler DFC | Book Reviews | May 12, 2010 | Comments ()


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There is nothing quite like driving to work in an ice storm to make you realize you are nothing more than a rat in a fucking maze. As my car spun out at 20mph on ice-covered roads I had to wonder "What the FUCK am I doing?" And more importantly why did my employer, which cares SO deeply for its employees, not delay start time or cancel the day outright in this treachery?

Once upon a time you went to work out of high school or college, put in your 30 years or so, and then retired with a nice pension. Those days are long gone. People are considered the same as pens and fax machines: easily replaceable and totally disposable. The idea of the employee as a valuable and necessary, unique component of the company has mutated into something much more disturbing. Now we are supposed to feel GRATEFUL to these companies for allowing us to work for them. It's akin to the Cratchet family at Christmas dinner begrudgingly giving thanks to Ebeneezer Scrooge for the miserable salary he pays Bob. Yes, the company pays us a salary of sort. But between the 1 percent raises, the shrinking benefits, and the realization that at any moment you and hundreds of co-workers can be laid off with no warning, at what point do we realize we are getting ass fucked and then being made to say thank you after?

Our world is increasingly run by a handful of multi-national corporations and in that atmosphere a human life has less meaning than a paper clip. We are an asset, nothing more. It is time for change.

Enter Daniel Suarez's Daemon.

Daemon is an acronym for "disc and execution monitor" and is pronounced {dee-mon}. Essentially it is a program that runs in the background, fully automated, and usually handles mundane activities such as log in requests, initiating transactions, etc. The titular daemon of Suazez's thriller is initiated upon the death of its creator, billionaire software designer Matthew Sobol. Two people are immediately killed under mysterious circumstances and Detective Pete Sebeck is called in to lead the investigation. Within hours several cops and federal agents are dead, the daemon begins taunting Sebeck, and the government desperately tries to keep a lid on the situation.

All of this happens by page 50.

To reveal more would be a disservice to the novel. Saying that a plot "twists and turns" has become something of a cliché lately. After all, a plot of any kind should "twist and turn" and keep the reader surprised. Daemon is one of the rare thrillers that really does shock and surprise the reader page after page. The true scope and intention of the daemon is not revealed until the last page and revelations about various characters occur all through the story.

For a techno-thriller the computer jargon is easy to follow for anyone who has a moderate understanding of computers and the internet. Even for a complete layman, key elements are explained and anything truly technical (like the vagaries of hacking) is touched on briefly so that the reader understands the basics of what the character is doing, even if they do not fully understand techniques employed.

Daemon touches on several provocative topics: privatization of the military, slave labor in prisons for profit, exploitation of third world countries by multi-national corporations, the increasing threat of security failure in an interconnected world, and the fall of governments and vampiric corporations. Most interesting of all is the idea that maybe those things need to die so that the human race can finally move forward.

Has technology shown that capitalism is a flawed ideology? If so, what is the solution?

For anyone that wonders about the future we are headed in, and has grown increasingly frustrated with the state of the world and behavior of our companies and governments, Daemon is an eye-opening experience. It is scary and exciting, but also strangely hopeful and a hell of an engaging thriller.

The sequel and conclusion, Freedomâ„¢ was released in January 2010.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Tyler DFC's reviews, check out his pop-culture blog, RUFKM.



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