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Modern Blood-Spattered Economics
on 20 January 2010
This is a direct sequel to the earlier thriller Daemon, which postulated a computer program set to respond to real world events and via access to most of the world's corporation's financial data, obtained a lock-hold on them and the global economy. Reading the earlier book is, I think, a prerequisite to this book; most of the background for various characters appears in the earlier book, along with the details of how the Daemon operates, and trying to decode this book without that information would be at least confusing and probably lead to missing some important points of this book.
This book, while still very much action-oriented and with quite a gore-quotient, delves much deeper into the consequences of today's globally interconnected information flow and how disruption of that could cause an economic and political melt-down. Given the assumptions this book starts with, Suarez makes these consequences both very visible and quite believable. In addition, he adds a new level in this book, which only played a side-role in the earlier book, on the growing possibility of massive role-playing gaming becoming an economy of its own that has real-world impacts. To some degree this is already happening, as some on-line games' currency and artifacts are being bid and traded for in real-world equivalents. He also brings in the concept of on-line social reputation as a credit marker and the use of that to bring large numbers of resources to bear on particular problems in very short time periods, all adding to the believability of the plot line. However, there were a couple of places where I wondered about the true economic viability of some the projects started by such groups, even when the technology for them is sound and already out of the laboratory.
In general, I felt this was a better book than Daemon, partly due to the various items listed above that added a lot to the overall believability of the scenario, and also due to the change in the Daemon itself, now showing itself to not just be a vehicle for revenge but having much higher goals that make some of its actions at least have a decent rationale behind them. The action is still very much fast-paced and the characters remain true to their core values. The presentation of philosophical points about just what constitutes freedom and how humans organize themselves as governments and economic units adds to this, lifting it beyond the sheer 'thriller' category into something with substance. The only real negative I found with this book was single-sided characterization of those in current power, who as shown here will do absolutely anything to retain their current status. As no one is completely black or white, this struck something of a false note with me.
An engrossing read with a lot of scare factor, but needed better, more realistic 'bad guys' to reach top-flight status.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)