BookList – Entry 5: The Daemon

I heard about this book while listening to a talk the author gave at a “Long Now Foundation” meeting via their iTunes podcast. Apparently, Stewart Brand got an early copy and it was passed around enough to gain quite a bit of popularity.

Well, after vomiting my way through an Ops Center story and a few other bad “tech fiction” books, I don’t think of myself as one to dive into the hype about a new book unless it’s from someone who’s name ends in Gibson, Bear, Stephenson or the like.

However, I really respect the Foundation (they’ve got an amazing vision and a bunch of cool members after all) so I thought this one might be interesting enough to give it a try.

Daemon is based heavily on the premise of AI and natural language parsing but what was even more interesting to me was the distributed systems approach represented in the book, I’ve always been a sucker for grid-like systems.

You can find the plot overview anywhere you like so I won’t bother recreating it here, but I will tell you, yes, it’s a good book, though it has probably been so well received due to the current economic state and fears.

At times I felt like the technical stuff was polarized between kiddy-gloved explanations or glossed over like magic. However, it’s clear the author focused on actual technological facts and didn’t suffer any “I know this!” crap or pretend hacking had visual displays.

I also thought the story spent some credibility “justifying” its realism, e.g. explicitly calling it narrow-AI (i.e. expert systems). If you have to split hairs then maybe you’re too worried about disclaimers and not focusing enough on the story, but I guarantee you that Suarez has more then enough here for a sequel.

If you take the “futuristic” parts on faith (which is required for any good sci-fi book) then you can ignore the other bits as you see fit and I’m sure you’ll be well entertained and even a little torn as to which side to cheer for!

Also, if you like this one I highly recommend giving any of the books by Charles Stross a try. Specifically Halting State, which seems to have a lot of overlapping & parallels themes and was even more enjoyabale for me, but only just

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I'm trying to build something interactive where I can learn from others and hopefully share useful knowledge too.
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