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Daemon and Freedom

Wow, reading up a storm this summer. I just finished Daemon by Daniel Suarez, and its sequel, Freedom.

Nominally set in the present day, Daemon opens as a who-dun-it and then evolves into a thought-provoking techno-thriller. There's nearly nothing spoiler-free I can say about the plot... the main characters include a detective, a reporter, a thief, an ex-KGB software engineer, an NSA codebreaker, and some military guys, all pitting their wits against an ace video game programmer who dies of cancer on page 2 of the book. So that's interesting.

The action and plot are well developed and made me want to stay up late to keep reading and find out what happens next. The computerized arch-enemy of the book is genuinely intriguing. And much of the computer tech is well researched and plausible; if the author isn't a network programmer, he certainly interviewed one extensively.

On the downside, there are some fancy tech-feats later in the book that are a bit beyond present-day technology, so the skeptical reader will need to suspend disbelief by reading the book as set in the "near future" rather than literally the present day. And there is some mass social engineering portrayed in the book that is a touch far-fetched.

Overall an enjoyable read even if you're a computer professional. And then, on to the sequel:

If Daemon is a techno-thriller, Freedom is an economics thriller. It portrays an interesting unfolding of world political and economic events that, while not necessarily plausible, are certainly very interesting to think about.

As the action-packed plot unfolded, I found myself rooting for some antagonists from the previous book, and disliking some of the protagonists as well, all clearly the author's well-crafted intent. The book has a good arc and never bores.

Unfortunately the second book has a pretty heavy-handed political message about the perils of modern society that had me rolling my eyes a few times. Demands on the reader's skepticism become more severe in the sequel, since extreme world events are portrayed that forced me to ask myself, "oh come on, that probably wouldn't really happen". Some of the computer-augmented combat scenes in the sequel are also a bit implausible compared to the first book. So not perfect.

Overall, Freedom is well written and provides a satisfying conclusion to the two-book story with only minimal eye-rolling. It's not high literature but it has some ideas that are worth thinking about. A cautious thumbs up to the pair if you're looking for a fun action read.

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