Planning on taking some time off between Christmas and New Year's? Looking for some fiction that will accomplish the twin goals of keeping your brain engaged with technology trends while giving yourself a break?
I have 4 suggestions:
1. Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez
Publish in July 2012
Many of us discovered Daniel Suarez back in 2009 with his first tech thriller Daemon. Suarez was a working IT systems consultant when he first wrote Daemon, initially self-publishing the book when no publisher would give him a deal (this was a much bigger deal before the spread of self-published e-books and Kindles). Kill Decision continues with Suarez's propulsive storytelling and high tech IQ, but adds some strong character depth and sure-footed plotting. We witness in Kill Decision Suarez becoming more economical, comfortable and confident writer. This is Suarez's best book of the three that he as published. (His second book is the excellent Freedom). Kill Decision is certainly the most timely, as the use of drone warfare continues to overtake conventional intelligence work and military strategy. Kill Decision asks what happens when we take the next logical step and allow military drones to make tactical decisions without human guidance. Suarez makes the human team that fights the drones as least as interesting as the technology, an accomplishment that elevates Kill Decision to a book that should be read by non-technologists as well us geeks.
2. Trojan Horse: A Novel by Mark Russinovich
Published in September 2012
Trojan Horse is Mark Russinovich's follow-up novel Zero Day, bringing us back to the authors alter ego, the computer security specialist Jeff Aiken. Like Russinovich, Aiken is a Ph.D. computer scientist with expertise in network and system security. Where Russinovich is a Microsoft Technical Fellow (one of the most prestigious positions one can hold with Microsoft), Aiken is ex-CIA and a freelance security troubleshooter for hire. The story of Trojan Horse involves Iranian spies, Iran's quest for a nuclear bomb, the Stuxnet worm (which set Iran's program back years), and the growth of China's cyberwarfare capabilities. Trojan Horse is best when Russinovich trusts the readers technical abilities and curiosity, when the story is at its most technically detailed and arcane. Russinovich is a better technologist than thriller writer, he should go with his his strengths. My recommendation is that: a) Microsoft should pay Russinovich to write novels, as this is great (and much needed) marketing for the company (Aiken prefers to use a Microsoft mobile OS and laptop!), and b) Russinovich should give up on all the romance and character development (the girlfriend, the beautiful ex-NSA Daryl Haugen is both humorless and unbelievable), and focus on fast plotting and cool technology.
3 and 4:. Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears and A.I. Apocalypse by William Hertling
Published in November of 2011 and May of 2012
I first discovered William Hertling when Amazon recommended the Kindle version of Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears for $0.99. I had no idea that Avogadro Corp would be such a terrific book (I bought it for the price!), as I had not heard about the book from any reviews. Hertling works for HP (which automatically makes HP seem more cool), and is self-publishing his books through his Liquididea Press. These are not vanity books, as Hertling is the real deal and Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse are both awesome reads. Both of these books take place in a near future where a Google like company, Avogadro, brings out a new e-mail feature (automatic persuasive re-writes) that goes horribly wrong (or right) and morphs into the world's first true AI (artificial intelligence) system. Who knew that Kurzweil's Singularity would be achieved through e-mail and data mining? Trust me, the story is better than it sounds. And it only gets better in Hertling's follow-up, A.I. Apocalypse, which tells the story of AI becoming again sentient (this time through a mutating computer virus), taking over the world's data centers and mobile phones. Hertling offers a scary but realistic vision of what might happen as computers become more powerful and ubiquitous, and as we slowly lose our ability to operate without software.
What tech thrillers can you recommend for Winter Break?
What are you reading?