John's Reviews > Kill Decision

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez
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Aug 23, 12

bookshelves: audiobook, science-fiction, cognitive-science
Read from August 15 to 23, 2012 — I own a copy

Daniel Suarez's first two books, Daemon and Freedom TM, were about the dangers of making efficiency the highest virtue in society. This new book Kill Decision is about the danger of making efficiency the highest virtue in warfare, specifically through the use of automated combat drones. Is there such a thing as being too good at making war; so good that it places a species in existential peril? Suarez makes the cases that there is, that autonomy in warfare is imminent and that it is just as dangerous to our future viability as unconventional/NBC warfare. It might be worse because it is cheap and anonymous, combining the challenges of asymmetric war and cyberwar and removing the mammalian prohibitions against kinship eradication. In addition to being a cautionary tale about efficiency, it is reasonable to see the events in this book as a competition between two kinds of intelligences. The first kind is the intelligence of swarming superorganisms and the second is symbiotic intelligence. The second kind of intelligence is seen in two sets of relationships, one between species and the other between two humans with radically different ideologies. I won't discuss the species or the ideologies, because much of the fun of the book is the pedagogical moments Suarez inserts, casually, into the story, but by the end of the story you find yourself really rooting for cooperation and despising hive minds.

This is a very macho book, filled with milspeak and special ops gear porn. But it also features one of the best female protagonists I've read. She is written as mentally, physically and emotionally competent, but still human. That shouldn't be remarkable, but it is. Nor is this book pro-war, despite being about running all over the world while shooting and being shot at. One of the main characters is so successful in the human intelligence business not just because he is a superior warrior, but because he knows when not to kill, and instead to befriend his opponents. Ultimately this is an intelligent book about intelligence, a thrilling book about autonomy and responsibility, and a persuasive book about the dangers of letting technological determinism replace ethics and international diplomacy. That makes it sound dry, but it is not. It is intense. Highly recommended for anyone who likes smart adventure and just over the next hill scifi.
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