Friday, April 18, 2014

Daniel Suarez Uncovers The Influx

Influx by Daniel Suarez
The conspiracy behind the book is compelling. Maybe fusion power, genetic enhancements, and artificial intelligence have all been proven but kept hidden for the same reasons the federal government stepped in to save failing banks and auto manufacturers — disruption leads to chaos.

The premise almost feels right when framed by one of the most obvious discrepancies in scientific advancement. Are smart phones the most significant innovation since the moon landing?

The answer is most certainly not in Influx by Daniel Suarez. He envisions a world where cures for common disease, extended human life, and anti-gravity have all been discovered and then covertly covered up. The high tech society that seemed within reach in the sixties was purposefully scrapped.

Influx is a high wire adventure thriller for tech enthusiasts. 

Partly imagined and partly pulled more from science fact, Suarez tells the story of Jon Grady, a particle physicist who discovers a device that can reflect gravity. Even if the research takes years before it is applicable, the discovery will easily revolutionize physics and later everyday life.

Unfortunately for Grady, his discovery may never see the light of day. Almost as soon as the finding is verified, the Bureau of Technology Control (BTC) is quickly called to shut the project down and harvest everyone involved. The person who leads the extraction isn't a BTC regular but Richard Cotton, an anti-tech terrorist known for targeting small, innovative operations to prevent humankind from leaping ahead any further than the eighties.

Gravity
Although the Luddite coverup seems plausible enough, the bureau has a far less noble purpose than protecting faith. It originally began as a Cold War tactic to prevent invention from falling into the wrong hands but has since spiraled out of control to become a rogue quasi government agency that believes social order can only be preserved by eliminating social, political, environmental, and economic impacts.

Influx is part prison, part espionage, and all techno thriller.

Once captured by the BTC, geniuses are generally given one of two choices. They can become part of the shadow agency and perfect their technologies or they can resist and find themselves in a prisoner program more dehumanizing than any other ever conceived. The latter is the path Grady takes.

Much of the first half is dedicated to his time in one of the terrorizing prison systems. The back half pits him and a handful of ill-equipped protagonists who slowly become aware of the increasing threat behind the fabric of complacency. Even the heroine Alexa, a genetically enhanced woman who was raised by the BTC, is largely ignorant of the bureau's deepest and darkest secrets.

A few more graphs about author Daniel Suarez. 

Daniel Suarez
Suarez makes the premise plausible by creating a rogue agency out of the Cold War era and then giving it additional justification for existence in the wake of a new Cold War. Two equally rogue and well-established splinters of the agency exist behind other unknowing host governments.

This additional threat is never really exploited or tied up by the end, but it does tell us that Suarez likes to leave room for sequels. Loose ends and errors are often forgiven because Suarez always does an excellent job at drawing upon his background in developing mission-critical defense, finance, and entertainment software.

Interestingly enough, he was self-taught in software development before retiring to his first love of writing. Suarez originally graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in English literature. Nowadays, he lives in Los Angeles and still enjoys console gaming, which grew out of his original love for pen and paper role-playing games.

Influx By Daniel Suarez Crosses Circuits At 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The book is a page turner from the opening chapters and throughout, with the technological speculations (and philosophical questions) being the clear highlight. While immediately enjoyable, two-dimensional characters, cliche predictability, and several story loose threads reduce the novel to a popcorn book — a fun, fast read that will likely be more forgettable than the technology that ties everything together.

Influx by Daniel Suarez can be found on Amazon. The novel is also available from iBooks and as an audiobook from iTunes. It is narrated by Jeff Gurner who does a fine job adding another dimension to Grady and an especially adept presentation of the anti-hero Cotton.