Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Kill Decision

Dan Suarez's Daemon was a great thriller. His follow up, Freedom, was a little lack-luster, and Kill Decision's starting to make me think that his first novel was a fluke.

The novel revolves around autonomous drones. Unmanned Air Vehicles are already a significant part of war today, in some ways reducing combat to something of a remote control video game. The idea then is to forget about the human part of the equation but go for full autonomy, including enough intelligence on the part of the machine to plan and launch an assault. Take that a bit further and you end up with the Terminator series of movies.

In this particular case, the model is that of an aggressive killer ant colony. To reify the point for the readers, the novel revolves around Linda McKinney, a professor who studies weaver ants, which are the most aggressive ant species on the planet. She's constructed a computational model of ant behavior, and posted it as part of research.

A series of events lead to her research being captured and then turned into practical, deadly use. On McKinney's side are some special forces type.

Suffice to say, we get action, romance, and lots of bullets shot in a Hollywood-style action movie, which you might enjoy if you could turn off your brain.

However, the premise is just too unbelievable. First, there aren't any safeguards for turning the resultant weapons on and off. Secondly, you would have to build a lot of such drones, and they would have to carry a lot of supplies on them since you couldn't actually get close enough to refuel them! Finally, if you were going to do this,  you would build your own swarm intelligence system, not model it after something in nature.
The characters are wooden and cliched, and don't get much development during the course of the novel. While the book might be entertaining as light summer reading, I feel that it's a disappointment after reading Daemon or even Freedom. Go (re)read those instead.
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