Daemon – A Novel

| April 18, 2007

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First 4 Chapters of Daemon

Enough technology to satisfy the hacker community, plenty of toys for the electronics buff but not too much of either to deter those merely interested in a fun read. Add in plenty of action to move the story along, great characters in which to sink your teeth and eye-opening views into the seedy cyber-underworld, and Daemon is poised to please the masses.

Donald C. Donzal, Editor-In-Chief
The Ethical Hacker Network

Read full review below.

WARNING: The following sample chapters contain adult content. Some content may be unsuitable for those under the age of 18. Those who are under 18, please visit www.disney.com. You have been duly warned.


Running this site and maintaing the other properties of the Digital Construction Company, I rarely find time to simply relax with a good book. Being the geek that I am, even the novels that I choose to read have something to do with technology (and I don't think I'm alone on that one). But when I was sent a review copy of Daemon by Leinad Zeraus, I threw it on the pile of others books I had yet to find the time to read. But every time I looked at the pile, the title alone was enough to keep grabbing my attention. So I picked it up and read the description on the back cover:

Matthew Sobol was a legendary computer game designer–the architect behind half a dozen popular online games. His premature death from brain cancer depressed both gamers and his company's stock price. But Sobol's fans weren't the only ones to note his passing. He left behind something that was scanning Internet obituaries, too–something that put in motion a whole series of programs upon his death. Programs that moved money. Programs that recruited people. Programs that killed.

Confronted with a killer from beyond the grave, Detective Peter Sebeck comes face-to-face with the full implications of our increasingly complex and interconnected world–one where the dead can read headlines, steal identities, and carry out far-reaching plans without fear of retribution. Sebeck must find a way to stop Sobol's web of programs–his Daemon–before it achieves its ultimate purpose. And to do so, he must uncover what that purpose is . . .

So here I am with more than enough projects on my plate, stacks of books to review, articles to edit and more. But I couldn't help myself. I had to at least read the first chapter to see if this was something worth my time. After all, the author is a tech guy… how well can he write anyway?

The first chapter has some interesting datacenter activity, mentions of rootkits, a little active and passive packet sniffing and a mysterious consultant who is "not a security expert" and wants no credit for helping to identify the source of the problem. OK, so Mr. Zeraus can add some hacker tools to the narrative. But, we've seen this done in the Stealing the Network Series from Syngress. But it was done well enough to keep my interest. So maybe I'll just skim the second chapter and see if anything interesting comes of this security breech.

Wait a minute. The second chapter has very ittle hacking tools, no mention of rootkits and introduces some character named Detective Sebeck. Oh… the guy from the intro. But he's not a cyber detective? In fact, as it turns out, he knows very little of computers. As I begin to make my way through chapter two, I'm now truly intrigued by Mr. Zeraus' narrative talents. He completely switched gears into a murder mystery.

As I continued through the book, now purposely ignoring the looming deadlines of other projects, the hacking got more detailed, the detective story grew more interesting and the possibilities of future technology became scary. The imagination Mr. Zeraus shows in assessing the current technological landscape and creating seriously plausible uses of technology such as the killer Hummer playing doberman to Sobol's mansion to the mapping of the Earth with GPS into an online gaming grid was impressive. Suffice it to say that as I made my way through chapter after chapter, I began to realize that this was no typical hacking story with caricatures of script kiddies trying to convince themselves and their friends how cool they really are. This work is true to its title. It's a novel. And a well written one at that. And it does what any good work of fiction does, it touches varying aspects of our world and shows how interconnected we truly are. From the rave scene and its connection to online pornography, to the new face of international organized crime, to the multi-national corporate world, to the court of public opinion, to the mind of a genius, Mr. Zeraus does an admirable job of introducing the reader to worlds in which you've probably never been, and he handles it with aplomb.

There are no spoilers here, but I do feel compelled to warn the readers that they must be prepared to think on their own especially at the end of the book. There are many literary theories on how an author can end a work of fiction. One of those methods is to tell you exactly what happens and leave nothing to the imagination. The other is to be ambiguous as to what will happen in the future lives of the fictional characters. Mr. Zeraus chose the latter. Some people feel that ambiguity in an ending is a let down. Daemon's ending can leave you feeling that way. But it also lends itself nicely to open discussion. Coming from an IT background and running what I feel is an educational web site, I can appreciate that approach. I encourage you to do just that and continue the conversation in the forum topic linked to this review.

One thing that I must say directly to Leinad Zeraus is that I applaud his restraint in not making the technology evolve into some kind of new life form. Too many science fiction stories deal with a given technology becoming "self-aware" and start acting on its own in a sentient way. Then it becomes the classic philosophical argument of man vs. machine. Daemon does not do this. At no time is the technology out of human control. Of course it is controlled by a dead genius who apparently thought of every contingency plan to prevent the daemon's death (thus making Matthew Sobol live forever – another discussion in and of itself), but its actions are still dictated by a set of instructions created by a human. I have no idea if this was done purposely, but by doing this, Mr. Zeraus effectively turns the debate into man vs. man. Well done.

Needless to say, I not only recommend this book to techies and non-techies alike, but I also encourage you to take time out of your busy lives and simply dive into a good book. As the summer quickly approaches, there's no better time to heed this advice, and Daemon is worthy of making your short list. Because remember, stress kills and so can daemons. At least you have control over one of them.

Enough of my opinion… on to the free chapters:

 

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