Literature: Kill Decision

Unmanned weaponized drones already exist—they’re widely used by America in its war efforts in the Middle East. In Kill Decision, bestselling author Daniel Suarez of Daemon duology fame takes that fact and the real science behind it one step further, with frightening results.

Linda McKinney is a myrmecologist, a scientist who studies the social structure of ants. Her academic career has left her entirely unprepared for the day her sophisticated research is conscripted by unknown forces to help run an unmanned—and thanks to her research, automated—drone army. 'Odin' is the secretive Special Ops soldier with a unique insight into the faceless enemy who has begun to attack the American homeland with drones programmed to seek, identify, and execute targets without human intervention.

Together, McKinney and Odin must slow this advance long enough for the world to recognize its destructive power, because for thousands of years the “kill decision” during battle has remained in the hands of humans—and off-loading that responsibility to machines will bring unintended, possibly irreversible, consequences. But as forces even McKinney and Odin don’t understand begin to gather, and death rains down from above, it may already be too late to save humankind from destruction at the hands of our own technology.


Relevant tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Linda may be a professor, not a hardened soldier, but she didn't survive years of field work in the African bush by being a wimp, and it shows.
  • Almighty Janitor: Invoked with Odin's unit, who are all non-commissioned officers so that they only answer to military high command rather than civilian authority, allowing them carte blanche to do what has to be done.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Odin tells Linda that, if she thinks drones controlled by the US government are frightening, think about what if they're being used by "North Korea, or Burma, or narco-traffickers, or Dominionists, or AT&T."
  • Attack Drones - pretty much the entire premise.
  • Badass
  • Badass Beard: Odin has one.
  • Clever Crows: one of the protagonists has a pair of ravens that carry cameras and do recon for him. They are of course named Huginn and Muninn.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Odin and his team have secret bases all over the world stocked with everything you could possibly need to fight a Robot War.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Odin's team have one at SubTropolis.
  • The Face: Strickland is this, though he becomes painfully aware that he doesn't have the same tech-savvy as the rest of his team.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Prakash has this.
  • He Knows Too Much: After Strickland discovers that someone is stealing his team's code and gathers them, the villains have them killed before they can investigate further or tip anyone off.
  • Hidden Villain: For a large part of the story we never see the villains orchestrating the drone attacks, only a pair of spin doctors in their employ.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Odin uses this to defend his tipping off an insurgent leader to an impending airstrike, explaining that the guy is a moderate compared to his rivals and would-be successors and would fight other foreign extremists and drug dealers once the West gets out of the way.
  • Multinational Team: Odin's team includes Korean, Japanese, Latino and ex-Soviet personnel.
  • Mundane Utility: Inverted. A derivative of Vocaloid - and yes, the copyright is expressly namedropped, as is the used to do "virtual pop stars in Japan" thing - is used by the villains to fake a video of the colonel ordering Odin's team to stand down.
  • Title Drop: Lethal Autonomy: Drones that fly themselves and make a kill decision without direct human involvement. A major revolution in military affairs... ...combining all the worst aspects of cyber war—anonymity and scalability—with the physical violence of kinetic war. A successful design could be stolen and cheaply punched out by the tens of thousands in offshore factories, then sent anonymously against anyone without fear of retribution.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Averted. When Odin's team get a video from the colonel ordering them to stand down, Odin is Properly Paranoid enough to smell a rat.
  • You Are Number Six: Invoked and justified. The Experts Odin acquires are given a number - Linda's is Six - so that, should the villains somehow listen in, they won't get real names that they can use to pull I Have Your Wife with.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Linda meets Odin after the villains, having stolen enough of her work for their drones, try to have her assassinated.