This review originally appeared 05/19/10 in my meta/review blog.
Freedom™ is the sequel to Daemon, where a daemon program invented by game designer Matthew Sobol manages to take over various businesses and the internet, creating a “darknet” that seems to be trying to Rule the World. (Or more accurately, trying to change the way the world works.) This is a novel that is big on ideas as well as action, and there’s a definite soapbox feel to the story line, which involves a sort of guided tour through Neat Ideas the Writer Thinks Would Work. (In some ways, it’s like the early/proto-science fiction travelogues where you were basically along for the ride while the writer told you through convenient mouthpieces How the World Should Be.) It also feels very much like a computer gamer’s “Serious Steel.”
The sequel opens up with the very brutal execution of a CEO by homicidal robotic motorcycles. From there we find out that the government is still trying to keep a lid on information about the Daemon program. (Not that they’re doing a very good job of it.) We’re told that they (the various government departments and corporations) have gone from wanting to completely destroying the Daemon to trying to find a way to control it. Meanwhile, the darknet becomes a support net, not for crime, but for creating self-sustaining communities, all linked by the net and mutual interests.
Meanwhile, Pete Sebeck has been assigned a “quest” to “justify humanity’s freedom” to the Daemon program. (Much like younger questing heroes in certain fantasy novels, he complains about it CONSTANTLY. He ends up with a fairly low rating because of this.) He’s drawn from place to place across a USA that is undergoing a recession and seems on the very brink of chaos as the population is whipped into a frenzy by both the operatives of the “darknet” and by the government and business concerns that are trying to keep a lid on things–while attacking the darknet operatives. In addition, the “sorcerer” Loki undergoes an “intervention,” Roy Merrit is canonized by the darknet, (who promptly decide that an AI “avatar” of Merrit would be the Best Thing Ever,) and Natalie Phillips gets back in touch with her not quite boyfriend, the hacker Jon Ross.
There were some moments of humor in this, and the idea of “real life” being played a computer game is an interesting one. (The “darknet” is set up like a cross between a computer game and a Facebook/blog. People have user handles, levels, classes and ratings based off of how positive the interaction was with that person.) I felt that the writing was a lot more smooth than in the previous book, though some characters still seemed to be somewhat lacking. There were some slightly problematic moments where Suarez fails to bring enough emotional impact to a scene–there were some scenes that would have been extremely horrific, but came off as very subdued and distant. (The basic feeling was that the reactions of the character to a scene were being “phoned in.”) There were also some moments where it was slightly more tell than show. Overall, Freedom™ is a good book, and a very fast read. (Of the kind where I ended up staying up well into the morning due to losing track of the time.)