Daniel Suarez
Influx Cover



Minor spoilers in this review...

I really enjoyed this one and it has been a real change of pace from what I have been reading recently. What we have is a quite fast paced 'tech-thriller' set in a near future where significant technological advances have been made by mankind yet the 'great leaps' have been harvested and controlled by secretive organisations effectively working outside of governmental boundaries.

Jon Grady is a scientist who makes a groundbreaking discovery by creating a gravity mirror which suggests that gravity can be warped and controlled. Before he can do a whole lot with this he is abducted by the BTC - the 'Bureau of Technological Control', nominally a US Government Department but effectively an independent organisation that harvests new technology until humanity is 'ready for them' and drip feeds scientific advances. The basic reason for this is that if scientific advances were distributed to wider humanity then humanity would do harm to itself (a basic notion that if teleportation was possible then it would wreck the transportation economy for example)

Grady deduces that it is wrong to withhold technology from society and refuses to co-operate by working for the BTC in isolation on his gravity mirror. Needless to say this doesn't go down to well with the BTC and we enter a straightforward 'nefarious, secretive exceptionally advanced yet dastardly organisation' using it's full powers to bring into rein this one difficult to handle rogue scientist.

This novel won the Prometheus Award (for science fiction novels that explore ideas of liberty and freedom) and I have to say it's a good winner because it ticks a lot of boxes and raises many interesting questions. Some things I've considered after reading this book are;

1) Is it justifiable to withhold scientific advances from wider humanity that could benefit them (consider how relatively easy it would be to provide the worlds population with clean drinking water for example)?
2) Is it ethical to release potentially harmful technology on humanity if they are not ready to use it in humanity's best interests (I am thinking here of the absurdity of nuclear weapon proliferation in the last century)
3) Legitimacy of 'extra' governmental organisations
4) The 'rights' of Artificial Intelligence and whether Artificial Intelligences can truly have sentience. I think there are lots of interesting ideas to explore in relation to Artificial Intelligence in relation to free will and making ethical and moral choices
5) The owning or patenting of biological material and DNA
6) and of course the rights for individuals to do what they want, work for who they want and be in control of their creative output

The pacing of the novel is fantastic, once the book kicks in it's a real page turner. I was always keen to see where the novel went and to see the development of the story and the characters. I think the first and last chapters of the book were the weakest. The first chapter was a lot of 'hard sci-fi' physics babble that I was struggling to follow but I stayed with it and was glad I did. The climax of 'Grady vs. BTC' suffered, like a lot of novels do when trying to describe exciting action sequences. It is quite difficult to pull off 'the last ten minutes of an action film' in a book with explosions and stuff like that. I do have a minor criticism of the book in that in the novel there is reference to splinter 'BTC' groups and I don't think their likely actions are sufficiently explained in the novel - there seems a large gap here.

I did think at times I needed to put my brain to one side and refuse to sense check the novel but this worked for me as it helped me just go along for the ride. Some parts of the book are excellent. The sections in 'Hibernity' (BTC's 'home' for rogue scientists) are absolutely terrifying. The sense of loss, fear, hopelessness is quite horrible. I totally loved this section of the book.

Really enjoyed this one.