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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Freedom

I found Daemon enjoyable, so I looked forward to reading Freedom when it came out. Unfortunately, it came out during a particularly busy time of my life, so rather than buy it, I waited in a virtual queue at the library.

Freedom continues where Daemon left off. We've got a networked AI of sorts slowly infiltrating the world, while a group of plutocrats try to fight back and take advantage of its capabilities for its own ends. As with the previous book, the characters are nothing to write home about: their motivations are simple, and even the (very mild) romance thread seems mishandled.

What the book does do a good job of, however, is to imagine a world where a MMORPG designer had the tools to reshape the way the world worked according to game design principles. You would have quests, levels, and ability to gather resources based on resources, and on top of that, a reputation based economy. But what would people do with it? Could you really run a community, a country, or the world this way? How would the non-digerati react? Dan Suarez hints at some answers, but is better at demonstrating the immediate consequences that unrolling the full implications of the world he has built.

All in all, if you turn off your brain, and then treat this book as a techno-thriller, you won't be disappointed: loud explosions, death matches, and full on fights are common. You could see a Hollywood movie made from this book. Furthermore, there's actually a conclusion: it's a bit pat, and I find it difficult to imagine someone who would actually execute such a vision to have the humility to build in the kind of checks and balances Suarez has him do, but there are no hanging threads and if there's a sequel, it'll have to involve different characters.

This novel is unusual in that it has a bibliography. It's an unusually well-read bibliography as well, including The Transparent Society, a book all too often ignored in the privacy debates, but is a much better book than most privacy advocates give it credit for. Recommended, but I'm not sure I would buy it at full price.

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