Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Kill Decision

Kill Decision
© 2012 Daniel Suarez
512 pages

Seemingly every day people within the United States are killed,  destroyed in apparent bomb attacks.  The victims have no obvious connections, but they are not random – nor were they bomb victims.  A new generation of cheap, lethal drones are waging an undeclared war on American soil, and no one knows who is behind them.    Enter Linda McKinney, a  young American scientist,  whose study of weaver ants in Africa was interrupted when she was kidnapped, shortly before her cabin was incinerated.    McKinney hasn’t been abducted by terrorists, however:  she is the last hope of a black ops organization hunting for the drones’ controllers.  The few leads they have indicate that the same people who stole software allowing for the drones’ facial recognition software also copied McKinney’s research into swarm intelligence.   

Kill Decision
is a horse of a different color from Suarez’ other works: although still a mix of technothriller and science fiction,   there’s far less speculation here than in Change Agent and Freedom. Frankly,   the plot of Kill Decision seems like the sort of thing that could happen this afternoon.  I’ll admit to not being up to date on the latest drone technology, but given the current status of facial recognition technology,   machine intelligence, and the price of consumer electronics....the premise of Kill Decision is speculative only in the “What if this did happen” sense, and not the “What if this could happen” sense.      The novel follows the un-named group investigating the drone attacks as their efforts to get to the root of the problem only increase in the planned-for campaign being ramped up,  leading to  a prolonged action sequence where the chasee- and chaser swap places several times, with brief interludes between the bloody chaos.  

Although drones aren’t a particular interest of mine, Kill Decision succeeded in keeping my attention, in part because the drones’ behavior strongly mimics that of...weaver ants, complete with using chemical compounds for swarm communication.  The drones of Kill Decision have total autonomy behind their prescribed targets,  evaluating and taking care of unexpected threats on the fly. The drones combine the innate horror of swarm insects with the cold dread of being hunted most effectively,  especially when the team encounters the base of operations.  

Although I hadn't intended to read Suarez' remaining works, both of are beyond the near-future subgenre I most prefer,  having read so much of him recently has me itching to give one of them a try, if only to experience more of the author!

Drone, Mike Maden


  1. it's amazing how writers invent these things; i'll look into seeing if i held my mouth right i might somehow actually figure out a way to investigate the possibility of... never mind... lol to myself...

  2. As a matter of interest: What do you consider 'near-future'? 50 years?

    1. Hmm...that would be a good threshold, sure. I like imagining "our" world in the process of changing more than being dumped into a radically altered world.


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