Matthew Sobol is dead. The d00d who developed the world’s most popular MMPORG, “Over the Rhine,” the
Upon the news of his death, a process Sobol designed floods the internet and launches an all-out attack on mankind. His body may be dust, but Sobol's mind lives on in the Daemon he created: a TSR that patiently awaited its triggering event. The Daemon's first acts are murder: a remote-control SUV develops a taste for blood; a McMansion explodes in a titanic fireball. Nothing is beyond the Daemon's electronic reach. If there's a computer involved in any way, it is corruptible: the damon can frame an unwilling victim with backdated deposits to a hidden bank account, skims ten per cent off the top of the Mafia's pornography and gambling profits, blackmails any person or business in the world into doing its bidding. The Daemon is omniscient... omnipresent... omnipotent. The Daemon is basically a god.
It’s a god who needs soldiers so the Daemon recruits them from OTR players, the disaffected, even prisons – the Daemon can commute a sentence it desires or transfer an uncooperative inmate to death row. The government has computers, too; so the troops easily stay one step ahead of any agency or police force. No one but some hackers and a genius at the NSA's cyberterrorism task force can hope to stand against the Daemon.
Mankind’s fear of his creations predates writing (Urg might have looked at Oog to say, “Me afraid fire!”), and author Daniel Suarez just converted Golem and the rampaging Robot from a tangible object to some computer code loose on the internet of things. Mad genius Matthew Sobol claims he was giving birth to a new civilization; like many other madmen who believed they knew what was best for humanity.
Suarez comes to the page with plenty of knowledge about his topic: the gamer and freelance computer security expert has consulted to Fortune 500 companies. So Suarez clearly knows his subject and does a an unusually good job of explaining technology to the less tech savvy. Explanations are typically clear, and the plot's plausible enough to give pause to people who aren't normally paranoid: the idea that governments are essentially helpless against a the Daemon is plenty to get some people considering life without a computer again.
Where Suarez’s plot collapses is the art of writing. While he's good at explaining technical details, Suarez isn't particularly deft at creating characters. The dialog is stilted and flat, the personalities are thin and poorly defined. Suarez may manage a well-turned phrase every few pages, but in between everything is stodgy and clogged. The plot suffers mainly because there's no hero – unless, of course, you root for the Daemon.
Overall, Daemon is a fascinating concept and fairly interesting plot dragged down by mediocre writing. One star: if the Daemon is truly omnipotent, it will turn that to five…