on May 13, 2013
After reading both Daemon (book 1) and Freedom (book 2) I'm more convinced than ever that this a) should have been a single book, and b) should have been edited much more critically.
Freedom starts more or less where Daemon ended, and in some ways solves some of the insanely glaring problems of Daemon. In the first book there was no one to root for - the "good guys" were all mind-numbingly stupid, and the "bad guys" were murderous psychopaths. The only character who escaped either of these characterizations was double/triple agent, the completely bland "Jon Ross", and he was only notable for being completely neutral and dull, and therefore the only character you didn't dislike by the end of the book because he didn't really do anything.
The sole female character from Daemon, who was first introduced as an intelligent woman but was quickly debased with stupidity, mooney eyed romance and bad judgment, was re-introduced in the sequel as a love-struck idiot who runs from high-powered, life or death, top-secret government meetings to weep in a bathroom stall in romantic angst over a man she barely knows. Her character stays that way for the remainder of the book.
The rest of the characters were reintroduced as slightly different characters than we left them in Book 1, apparently from a severe course correction by the author who may have realized that there was no point to a Book 2 if the readers didn't care who lived or died. In what could have been an interesting move, he therefore flipped the good guys and bad guys from Book 1 by exaggerating the stupidity and moral blankness of the "good" government agents, now characterizing their stupidity as a form of evil - and by adding an entire undergroup of hardworking "everyman" type folks who find a way to use the formerly-evil Daemon network to live better, more productive lives.
This is where the author borrowed shamelessly from the plot of 'Atlas Shrugged'. One by one, people are being drawn away from the former social hierarchy and going "off the grid", joining the Daemon network called the "Darknet" and, exactly as in Atlas Shrugged, forming new communities based on inventing new energy sources and new farming methods and new technologies, and waiting for the former World social and political structure to completely fall apart, at which point they would then take over the world and live more productive lives. The government, as in Atlas Shrugged, is interested only in power and money without wanting to produce anything, and they spend a great deal of pages thwarting and actively fighting against the only people who can accomplish anything.
The now-stupid female character (Natalie Philips) plays the role of Dagny by being the last holdout who still thinks she can change the government from the inside, and decides to fight her former allies to save the dregs of the government, which pretty much kidnaps her to use her for her supposed "brains" while they destroy everything she believes in. And she willingly goes along with this, and the bad guys forget she exists, which leaves her helpless, useless self open to being saved by a man, as she was in the last book.
The book chugs along by alternating three literary devices:
1. About 80% of the book is a detailed description of torture, dismemberment, decapitations, delimbings, victims begging for mercy as body parts are ripped or sawed off, humiliation, sadism and more and more and more blood splattering off various blades and woodchippers. No detail is spared, and no detail is too gory not to repeat in the next torture/murder scene, and the next, and the next. You will read about the "razorbacks" cutting people open probably 10 different times. To the author, this never gets old. Me, I skimmed after a while, mentally checking off "blood" "intestine" "blades" etc. as cues that the torture scene was still going on and on, and then finally reading the standard "and that was the last thing he ever saw!" as my cue that the most recent death scene was concluding.
2. About 10% of the book was the introduction of characters you will never meet again, whose sole purpose in the book seems to be to exposit what I'm assuming is the author's sociopolitical philosophy. Sometimes it's an old man, sometimes a young guy, sometimes a passing female - they all step out of the story to voice the same ideas using the same words and same slogans, then they are gone from the narrative, never to bee seen again.
3. About 10% of the book is the plot advancing. Sometimes the plot advances in an interesting direction, but then is interrupted by yet another 20 pages of blood bath, and the next plot advancement goes in a completely different direction. Too many times a character is brought in, described in excruciating detail and then never appears in the story again. Sometimes the plot advances in a way that appears to be set up starting in Book 1 and continuing in Book 2, but fizzles out completely.
This book is like a pinwheel in a way. The center is the idea of the Darknet and Sobol, and there are a hundred blind alleys of directions the author tries to take it. None ever take hold. None really work.
Jon Ross's: asian connections, secret identity, willingness to join the darknet, escape from Russia, previous identity thefts, etc... all go nowhere. Each time he's given a story line, it fizzles. He's a completely bland character at all times, and at first I thought that was deliberate - he's a double agent, a triple agent, a man with a secret past and therefore "Jon Ross" is bland because he doesn't exist. Then we find out his secret past in about 2 sentences and it's boring and bland and adds nothing to the plot. The real human under the bland Jon Ross cover is equally bland.
The Burning Man, Roy Merritt: I really liked where the author was going with this one - a "good guy" fighting against the Daemon network who is so tough and honest that he gains the respect of the (previous) "bad guys" and becomes a legend, a folk hero, a model for the kind of character they would like to have. This was really neat stuff. This was something I was really interested in seeing expanded upon, but by the end they turned the "Roy Merritt" avatar into nothing more than a Darknet RoboCop. What a fizzle.
And speaking of fizzle is the end. It's as limp an ending as they come. I'm assuming there's supposed to be a third book, since we had to read a full chapter of the ultimate bad guy Gragg (aka Loki) making a complicated deal with the Devil, a Hitleresque gaming character who can by some unspecified means be brought into a different level of life like an evil genie in a bottle, and like a good genie will fulfill 20 wishes before taking off on his own, his debt repaid. We read page after page after page of Loki (not really) struggling with his choice to bring the evil German guy into D-space, and he reappeared only twice after that and who knows what ever happened to their deal or why we had to read so much about someone who had no other point in the story.
I actually thought it was kind of humorous how after ten zillion pages of spilling blood and guts all over the reader, the good-guy-turned-bad-guy "the Major" got the fizzliest ending possible. It was so limp. But it did leave open an avenue for Book 3, which was probably the point.
All told this is a tangle of a book that could use a good combing out. The storyline is so snarled in pointless dead ends and blood baths, it's almost like looking at a plot through a murky lens. Books 1 and 2 could have easily been combined (and edited heavily - where was the editor, anyway?) into one pretty interesting book. As it is, it's more of a rushed, self-published feeling mess of a sequel.
on October 17, 2014
This is the sequel to Suarez' book "Daemon." While the first book began with very plausible science "faction" (to borrow from T. Leary), as the story evolved into "Freedom," the tech advanced to become very advanced. That's fine of course, and I thought that the evolution of the tech was in itself interesting.
Also interesting is the overall theme of the two books, namely, the erosion of democracy in the face of wealth and influence. It's a theme that seems to be attracting many authors these days. Right or wrong, it's a sign of our times that the concept has worked its way into the consciousness of so many writers.
"Freedom" was violent in places, and the level of graphic violence can be off-putting. At the same time, the book is essentially a war story, and so the violence is reasonable. I never had the sense the violence was gratuitous, however. One cool detail was how Suarez put a sociopath on both sides of the conflict. Although sociopaths, by their nature, are sort of "flat" characters, I found it interesting that, in at least a couple of instances, one of the sociopaths saved the day for the good guys.
In general, the rest of the characters were sufficiently vivid, though few of them resonated deeply with me. That happens a lot in science fiction -- there's so much plot & action that there's not enough bandwidth left for nuanced, sympathetic characters. That doesn't detract from the story too much in this case, however. I enjoyed both books enough to read them twice.
on May 26, 2011
At another's recommendation, I read and enjoyed Suarez's first novel, Daemon, so I picked up Freedom as well, and could only get through the first third or so.
It seems like Suarez was making his critique of modern society more explicit in this volume, as exhibited by the following paraphrased sequence that seems to occur on almost every other page.
Wise Character: And so the Daemon does this, we do that, and then the other thing happens.
Naive Character: But isn't that [stealing, murder, cheating, or some other crime]!?
Wise Character: Really, Naive Character, is that so different from [insert feature of modern society with which we have grown accustomed]?
By the 10th or so time this sequence played out, I had had enough. I get it -- what the Daemon is doing isn't any worse than what plutocrats, etc. are already doing, only it isn't phony about it.
Maybe the end of the book has a higher action/hectoring ratio, but I decided my life was to short to read through more lectures.