By Eric Pettifor
FreedomTM is the sequel to Daniel Suarez’s book Daemon which I reviewed previously, giving it four stars out of five. The sequel likewise is a very good read, progressing logically from the foundation laid in the first novel.
The reason I didn’t give Daemon a full five stars is that towards the end it degenerated a bit into an action/adventure screenplay complete with extended car chase. I was afraid that FreedomTM would carry on along those lines, leaving the most interesting part of the story in the first two thirds of the first novel. Fortunately, Suarez pursues the emerging subject of social organization among the daemon’s followers.
In fact, in the second book, the daemon is less a main character than a background force existing primarily as the creator and facilitator of the “Darknet,” the network its followers are all connected to via eye displays.
The Darknet is like a social networking application that augments reality by overlaying data on a scene using GPS coordinates for placement. By such means data can be made to hover over people (thus providing information about them), architecture can be augmented with details unseen by anyone not wearing the visual display, and avatars — sophisticated computer characters — can wander the earth like ghosts.
The daemon is a very sophisticated distributed program — not a true AI but as close as a genius gaming programmer could come. For all its sophistication, it is just a heartless collection of algorithms responding conditionally to data input, mercilessly achieving its preprogrammed objectives without any concern for cost in human lives. Consequently, in the first book, there is some ambiguity with regard to just who the good guys and and the bad guys are. As it fades into the background and the Darknet society comes to the fore, that ambiguity is resolved. The theme of human ideals and aspirations emerges.
The Darknet is not social networking in the sense of something like Facebook. It is social networking elevated to the level of direct democracy, where participants rate each other’s reputation in terms of stars, and where information is modded up such that issues of the greatest collective concern are quickly apparent and resources can be allocated to them. In Darknet society, the people rule. When this is contrasted with the corporatocracy that is the mainstream of society, it isn’t difficult to pick sides. And the corporatocracy quickly recognizes the threat of a society it doesn’t control and whose Darknet credits convert to US dollars at higher and higher rates of exchange.
Like the first book, FreedomTM features lots of action and violence. It is still very much a story that wants to be made into a movie, though the thrills are better integrated. And character is still not Suarez’s strong suit. I give FreedomTM four and a half stars for its vision of a potential non-dystopian future where corporatism, not technology, is the prime threat. In the end it’s really all about fascism vs. democracy: Will the people rule? Can the people rule?
Published by Dutton. Hardcover $26.95 (US), ebook 12.99