Human society from the time of its forming has evolved due to some form of justice and punishment systems that prevailed in it. The system reduces crimes and thefts by being a deterrent due to fear of punishments – Prison, Life sentence or in rarest of the rare cases-Death sentence. In the Twenty-First century, the biggest threat to nation states and humankind in large are the terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and others. Traditional punishments, even Death Sentences don’t work as a lever against them, as they are ready to die as suicide bombers for their cause and promised benefits in after-life. If we thought this threat to be scary enough, Daniel Suarez in Daemon (2006) writes about a more deadlier world to worry about.
I have read few other technothriller books but Daemon to my limited reading came out different. Though I purchased the book on Kindle a few years back (say around 2010 when it got released) I read it only last week.The book got me interested so much, I had to forgo sleep over an entire night and read the book. So what’s this book about?.
In Daemon the antagonist is a dead person. How do you stop him from doing more crimes?.
How do you prosecute, punish a dead person? The question is haunting me ever since reading this book!
Death was supposed to be an eternal truth, a full stop which had nothing beyond it (in the conventional sense). The book is not about after-life or ghosts. The dead antagonist was an evil-computer genius “Matthew Sobol”, he was the Co-founder of a famous Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) and a billionaire. He dies from a severe brain tumour, in his last days he gets so twisted in his mind that he creates and unleashes a daemon (a computer program that keeps spreading over the Internet). We encounter the daemon first when two programmers in his company are murdered through the Internet using sophisticated mechanism. Then the daemon unleashes weaponized Humvee vehicles against law-enforcement officers who come to raid Sobol’s residence. The daemon broadcasts the video of this massacre to recruit people for its cult. It funds all its activities through offshore accounts and earns money through treacherous online trading/business transactions.
The daemon becomes so powerful that in its secure communication the US Government learns about a Programming Interface (in Software we call it an API) called Destroy( ) which accepts a country name as a parameter. What it can do is destroy all the computer technology in that country which includes all its finance and even trigger weapons of mass destruction through online.
The book has a variety of characters. Apart from talented law-enforcement officer we see a Convict working in a prison call centre who achieves his “numbers”, a cybercriminal who drugs girls in parties to broadcast online his copulating act with them.
Daniel Suarez was a computer consultant who has designed mission-critical software for the defence, finance and entertainment industries. This background comes through clearly in the book. Most of the technology, whether it’s Short trading, Wardriving, Virus infections, Business systems, Defense weapons written in the book, comes out believable. This made the book enjoyable for my taste.