Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Daemon

Go To


 A computer program that runs continuously in the
 background and performs specified operations at
 predefined times or in response to certain events.

Matthew Sobol is the young, genius programmer head of CyberStorm, one of the world's most successful computer gaming companies. At least until he dies from cancer. However, before dying, he spent a good portion of his prodigious talent and vast fortune designing and building custom hardware and writing a collection of sophisticated computer programs that have been left sitting passive on machines scatted around the Internet. Passive, that is, until one of them reads Sobol's obituary. This program sends triggers to other systems which activate a number of other distributed processes; the Daemon awakes.

Among its first actions are to kill two of Sobol's coworkers. When they try to forcibly enter his mansion after connecting Sobol with the aforementioned murders, a number of police and FBI agents are maimed or killed by an impressive set of boobytraps, including an autonomous, murderous Humvee that is Nigh-Invulnerable to everything they can throw at it. The Daemon then frames its actions on a handful of people to cast doubt on its very existence and withdraws from the public eye. It quietly offers certain people in key positions fame and success if they make a Deal with the Devil, or more accurately, the Daemon. Then, ominously, it goes silent. When it resurfaces, things go downhill. Fast.

This 2009 book is unusual for the standard technothriller in that Daniel Suareznote  is One of Us. It becomes clear from the very beginning of the book that he is very familiar with computer systems, networking and security. (He is, in fact, a successful systems & networking security consultant.) It starts off a little jargon-heavy — clearly to set up the book as tech-heavy for the uninitiated, and to indicate to those of us on the inside that he actually knows this stuff. He never skimps on the explanations for those who don't already know these things, while not going overboard for those of us who do.

The 2010 sequel, Freedom™ (yes, the trademark symbol is part of the title), picks up shortly after where Daemon leaves off and focuses further on the motives and goals of the Daemon's actions. Through the main viewpoint character, whose identity is a spoiler for the previous book, we learn that the Daemon has moved beyond merely attacking the old system to building a new one and making itself more appealing to the masses, who it needs in order to truly upset the status quo. We also get multiple looks through the viewpoints of the powerful parties both corporate and governmental who oppose it for their own reasons and are slowly but surely putting together plans to get rid of it for good. A storm is coming, and only one of the sides will be walking away after it erupts.

You thought spammers were bad? Pray you never face the Daemon.

Because of the number of plot twists and the way many tropes are stretched in various directions throughout the story, while many things are hidden below, you might still encounter spoilers. You have been warned.

There is a character sheet that needs a lot more love. See also Kill Decision, his next book.

TVTROPES:/Daniel Suarez/Daemon/Tropes$ cat tropes.txt_

  • Adventure-Friendly World: Daemon's darknet starts out as one, with "Logistics Defense sorcerers" like Loki having the time of their lives infiltrating Predatory Businesses, clashing with Private Military Contractors, and killing spammers. However, as the story moves into Freedom™, over time those threats are all but eliminated, shifting the darknet's focus from eliminating threats to streamlining the Player-Generated Economy, leaving them with little to do and way too much power to do it with. Luckily, Sobol anticipated this, and designed the darknet to adapt to its citizens' wishes. In this case, a player-generated avatar of Roy "Tripwire" Merrit which depowers Loki when he goes too far.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Explicitly subverted. The Daemon is in no way an AI, nor is it ever claimed to be one. Experts repeatedly have to correct people who do refer to it as an "AI" by explaining that at best it is a distributed network of expert systems with a predefined set of actions, and in no way intelligent. Although its actions can be construed as evil, the Daemon itself is just a program and no more evil than a spreadsheet or word processor. However, it is very, very sophisticated and comprehensive.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: During the final stages of Daemon's takeover, the "Operation Exorcist" anti-Daemon taskforce makes an Alpha Strike on a major North American darknet community. Their objectives(stated in order of rising importance); destroy all vehicles, destroy all computer equipment, and execute every man, woman and child. Pre-Daemon, that last one would be called an ethnic cleansing.
    The Major: Rules of Engagement for darknet communities are as follows: kill everyone you find, burn every structure, and destroy every vehicle. Without exception. The knowledge and equipment that makes these communities work must be eradicated. The cultural memory that they ever existed must be erased. Is that understood?
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: A favored tactic of the Daemon in recruiting its agents. As an example, when it springs Charles Mozely from prison by cleaning his record, it warns him when he starts getting cold feet that it could easily put him back. Say, as a child molester.
  • Augmented Reality: Members of the Daemon's "darknet" use Cool Shades as a Heads-Up Display and haptic gloves. The shades are keyed to their retinas, and the gloves to their fingerprints. These turn Real Life into an Absurdly High Stakes Massively Multiplayer Alternate Reality Game, initially in a figurative sense and eventually literally — by carrying out "quests" to increase the Daemon's influence on the world, operatives are awarded with "Character Levels" that grant them access to increasingly powerful devices and abilities such as remote controlled weapons like AutoM8s and Razorbacks, Shock and Awe gloves and Invisibility(at least to cameras) rings, "curses" that ruin people's credit ratings, etc. As "quests" are completed, the devices and abilities the Daemon awards become more numerous and powerful. Eventually, the darknet becomes an entire civilization that is Invisible to Normals — one superior to the current one.
  • BFG: Nothing less than 50-cal will damage a Razorback or the first AutoM8.
  • Batman Gambit Roulette: Matthew Sobol programmed the Daemon to anticipate every circumstance he could think of and take advantage of it. However you can only anticipate so much before you have to guess. Of course, the essential component of a Batman Gambit is Bastard Humans acting like Bastards = people who don't act like Bastards trigger positive Daemon events instead of negative ones. And Sobol, as a game developer, had been technically running Gambit Roulettes for a living for his entire adult life.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: As the story progresses, you learn that the Daemon is by far the least evil faction at work. Especially in the sequel. After all, the Daemon only murdered less than a dozen people at its inception and went on to improve the lives of billions, while by the climax of Freedom™ the anti-Daemon forces have re-created Nazi Germany in all but name.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: A favored technique of the anti-Daemon forces in general, and the Major in particular; he regularly "rescues" teenage girls from brothels so that he can get them darknet accounts and then behead them to steal their darknet identities, keeping their heads chemically alive to spoof the biometrics. He actually has Loki's eyes torn out and his fingertips and tongue chopped off, but needs to keep him alive to pass the fMRI scans... and all of this is is insufficient to fool the Oberstleutnant Boerner bot, who not only rescues him and has him fitted with cybernetics, but kills the Major when he attempts to assume Loki's identity with the borrowed biometrics.
    Oberstleutnant Boerner: I do so love my verk!explanation 
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Oberstleutnant Boerner bot, purpose seemingly accomplished in Daemon, returns in Freedom™.
  • The Chessmaster: Sobol is a unique case since he's dead for the entirety of both novels.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Several, intentional or otherwise. One of the Daemon's ploys is to completely infiltrate a company's IT department and then demand cooperation or face destruction of all their corporate data.
    • In the sequel it becomes clear that Private Military Contractors involved at the highest levels of government are taking every advantage they can of the worldwide economic chaos caused by the continued progression of Sobol's goals to gain private power for themselves and make a quick buck at the expense of the American public.
  • Deal With The Daemon: Fame and fortune, or quick death. Your choice. The Daemon may also choose you — with the same rules.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Oh, sorry, were you thinking this detective story would have the obvious hard-bitten Defective Detective (who knows very little about computers, yet the Daemon seems to be intently interested in) running the case? Actually, yes, he comes back and does end up a major character.
  • Defective Detective: Sebeck is cheating on his wife, whom he felt obligated to marry because he got her pregnant. His son is none too happy with him. And he's got an appetite for danger that borders on self-destructive. Then his mistress turns out not to be what she seems...
  • Death by Origin Story: The second type applies to both Matthew Sobol and, later, Pete Sebeck. Except that the latter gets better.
  • Death by Pragmatism: The Major, and by proxy the entire anti-Daemon movement. Shooting Merritt to Uphold the Masquerade hurts him in numerous ways that lead to the end of pre-Daemon civilization; obviously it costs him a skilled and determined operative, but not only does it also lead to the Heel Face Turns of first Ross and ultimately Phillips, and martyr Merrit in the eyes of the darknet, but it pisses off Loki so badly that he vows to kill the Major at any cost. In short, the entire plot of Freedom™ occurs because he decided preserving the Masquerade was more important than capturing a One-Man Army so deranged even the darknet eventually censures him.
  • Determinator: FBI Agent Roy "Tripwire" Merritt, of the hostage retrieval team that tries to get in Sobol's booby-trapped mansion is set on fire and still manages to breach the interior of the mansion. His run becomes the stuff of legend, the video passed around the darknet as recruitment material, members of which christen him "The Burning Man" as a measure of respect. And he survives, somehow, to later pursue Gragg/Loki and the AutoM8s in an epic chase through the streets of San Francisco.
  • Developer's Foresight: Above all else, the Daemon is just a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game — albeit one with real-life consequences — and Sobol is just the developer. As it doesn't begin until after he dies, there's no way to make him turn it off, and he had to anticipate every action his enemy could possibly take without patching it. Thus, the entire plot is the establishment trying to break the game before it breaks them. They fail. Notably, it points out exactly how true Developer's Foresight works; there's no way to predict how every player will play a game, so clever developers make the Railroading so subtle most don't notice it.
    Jon Ross: His AI succeeds because it doesn't anticipate you — it manipulates you.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In Freedom™, Loki ruins a queue-cutter's credit rating.
    • The Daemon arranges for darknet operatives to carry out vigilante executions on the people responsible for email spam.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The Major and by extension all the anti-Daemon forces. The Major actually tells Peter Sebeck, Just Between You and Me, exactly how he believes modern civilization needs direction and control.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Halperin Organix may be a biotech firm creating strains of corn that can only feed someone if put through a special industrial processor, and suing anyone they suspect has their patented genetic material in their fields for copyright infringement, but they don't appreciate having the Major's private military contractors utilize their troubles with the Daemon to justify a terror campaign across the Midwest.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Major.
  • Evil Genius: Matthew Sobol.
  • The Extremist Was Right: In the end it appears that Sobol's new society not only reaches the point of self-sustaining growth, but proves itself superior to what preceded it by censuring Loki where the old world continued to empower the Major.
  • Eye Scream: The Major has Loki's eyes torn out — along with having his fingertips and tongue chopped off as part of an attempt to steal his biometrics and assume his high-profile darknet identity.
  • Flechette Storm: One of the most potent weapons in the Daemon's arsenal are "Angel Teeth"; balloon-dropped smart flechettes precise enough to hit previously launched ones. And are usually dropped in packs of a hundred; dozens of Daemon operatives show up at Merrit's funeral, only for Private Military Contractors to fire into the crowds to kill them — and for every PMC present to die from a single drop.
  • Former Regime Personnel: One small part of Freedom™ gives us the viewpoint of a mercenary who used to serve in the regime of Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu.
  • The Game Come to Life: The entire plot. Early on, the autonomous Hummer is believed to have been programed with videogame-style logic and CyberStorm's games are used to recruit talent for Sobol's cause. Once recruited, operatives use Augmented Reality glasses to carry out "quests" in the style of a MMORPG; agents gain levels and earn "network credits" for completing tasks such as building tools and weapons, infiltrating and suborning governments and corporations, recruiting and training new operatives. As the Daemon network becomes more sophisticated and populated by warm bodies, the combat and infiltration operations become less important(which annoys Loki to no end) and focus shifts to building a new civilization based on sustainable communities and acceptance of technological and social change. This was Sobol's plan all along; comparing the shortcomings of modern society to the strong, stable Player Generated Economies of CyberStorm's virtual worlds inspired him to use his decades of development experience to create a Player Generated Civilization.
  • Green Aesop: The Daemon guides its operatives into building sustainable communities based on local manufacture and renewable energy, while striking at Big Business and its long supply chains.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: What Sobol believes led to the demise of every civilization in recorded history, and will do the same to modern civilization unless drastic steps are taken. He points out that the Anasazi and the Mayans actually had similar capabilities to Rome and Constantinople — writing, architecture, agriculture — and fell in the end for the exact same reason; their ruling class grew complacent, used up all the resources available, then fiddled while their empires burned.
    Instead of adapting, their leaders clung to power and strove instead to be the last ones to starve to death. ...I expect our own civilization will do likewise. The people behind the modern global economy will prevent any meaningful change until it’s too late.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Sebeck visits a modern version as a part of his quest. This one is located in the desert of New Mexico on tribal lands, where they are building a massive complex out of an impact crater to generate energy and water perpetually. The project is so efficient, it is actually carbon-negative!
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: One of Sobol's (and thus, the Daemon's) favorite tricks is encoding messages into video game scenes. Individually, the assets in a scene could be loaded thousands of times in numerous different contexts, making them nearly impossible to trace and meaningless if you only look at them one at a time. Only by being in the right place and seeing the whole scene in context, as a player, does the information reveal itself.
  • High-Class Glass: The Oberstleutnant Boerner bot wears one.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Sobol consciously chose to become the villain to achieve his goals.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: One-Word Title, with Daemon, and Freedom™, if the latter still counts as one word.
  • Idiot Ball: Despite having the resources of an entire planet to work with, the governments and corporations constantly drag their heels and use narrowminded, outdated thinking to try and tackle the Daemon, which culminates in the climax of the first book, where the headquarters of a top-secret joint task force is infiltrated by a high-ranking Daemon operative, because the people running it OUTSOURCED THE SECURITY BACKGROUND CHECKS TO A DIFFERENT COMPANY.
    • The second book reveals that The Major screwed up the anti-Daemon task force even more by secretly planting bugs all over the base to spy on his own colleagues, bugs that Loki subsequently hacked to gain access.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Loki/Gragg tells Dr. Philips this when they first meet in Freedom™.
    • Loki/Gragg was also on the receiving end from Boerner in Daemon.
  • Immune to Bullets: Razorbacks and the first AutoM8. So you need a BFG.
  • Improbably High I.Q.: Sobol's IQ is 220. Based on statistics, there is a chance of less than one person in 6 billion having this result.
  • Invincible Hero: Total surveillance capabilities. Penetration of all corporate, government and personal databases. Ultra-tech autonomous vehicles and an army of networked minions with superhuman abilities. After a while you have to admit that it is somewhat ridiculous. Let the Daemon itself explain this, it will certainly be unbiased *sarcasm*.
    $ cat spannerintheworks.txt_

    There are many potential biological, geological and astrophysical events (a theoretical Level 4+ pathogen such as an airborne, multispecies variant of Ebola or Marburg virus, activation of the Yellowstone supervolcano, a "dinosaur killer" asteroid or comet (>= 5 km) found on an Earth-impacting trajectory with less than 30 days lead time, etc.) that are not addressable with current or near-term future technology and would render Daemon unexecutable. These are all low probability events. Discontinuation by humanity of any data technology with more capacity than the Hollereith Tabulator would also render Daemon unexecutable. This is a VERY low probability event. Analysis indicates that a comprehensive campaign of removal of all human agents from the network as effective strategy, but highly risky, in terms of resources, logistics and public relations. Nevertheless, Daemon is not invincible, and certainly not boring.
  • Invisibility Cloak: a primitive version shows up in Freedom™ worn by darknet operatives.
  • Jerkass: Gragg/Loki. His character is introduced by describing how he orchestrates the gang-date-rape of a teenage girl at a rave so he can put the video on the Internet for money. Right afterwards, he lets a acquaintance of his take the well-deserved bullets (for Loki anyway) from a pissed off group of drug-runners after Gragg/Loki stiffed them. He mentioned not liking the guy, but still quite the Jerkass move. He doesn't get any better, although... see Jerkass Woobie.
  • Lightning Gun: The LIP-C weapon (Laser Induced Plasma Channel) used by Gragg/Loki.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: How Sobol sees the modern world;
    When the survival strategy of a civilization is invalidated, in all of human history none have ever turned back from the brink. When presented with disruptive change, without exception they perish. I expect our own civilization will do likewise. The people behind the modern global economy will prevent any meaningful change until it’s too late.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: What happens to anyone hunted by a Razorback.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Take the dangerous features of your average MMORPG or First Person Shooter and put them in the hands of a crazy-smart game designer. Apply the result to a real building. You have Sobol's death trap Mansion, where Everything Trying to Kill You gets serious.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Apart from Merritt, the reader will find his conceptions of who's "good" and who's "evil" near-constantly questioned.
  • Muggles: Everyone who doesn't — or perhaps refuses to — admit that the Daemon exists.
    Price: Well, the public doesn’t really decide anything now—they just select from the options they’re given. Factions have a slang term for the general public. They call them NPCs—as in ‘Non-Player Characters’—scripted bots with limited responses.
    Sebeck: That’s just obnoxious.
    Price: Is it? These people have only limited decision-making ability.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Matthew Sobol's obituary is the trigger to start the Daemon.
    • In the sequel, Freedom™, Merritt's death at the end of Daemon has turned him into a martyr and folk hero to the people of the darknet. The situation avoids any irony by the fact that based on everything the darknet learns about his life, he truly was a man of honor and integrity. Ultimately, "The Burning Man" project is the key to maintaining equality in the new darknet society.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Implicit. The corporations leading the charge against the Daemon have such power that at one point they have the NSA director put away on trumped-up charges.
  • Necessarily Evil: Sobol. He firmly believes that Utopia Justifies the Means and was willing to pay the price for it. In the end, it appears his actions are vindicated by the new society he helped create, although being dead, he'll never know it.
    • The Major insists that he is the same, but given how he causes exponentially more terror, pain and death than Sobol(deception, torture, murder, ethnic cleansing) with no positive results whatsoever, he comes off as a self-justifying sadist.
  • No Place for Me There: Deconstructed somewhat. Sobol knows he is dying from cancer and will never survive to see whether his goals succeed or whether it will have been worth the price. In the end we see a recording he made near his death where he agonizes over his decisions and nearly begs Sebeck to tell him whether it was worth it. Made even more tragic since it's only a recording and the real Sobol would never get his answer.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Played with. Both books regularly cut back to secret meetings of the directors of the major intelligence agencies as they discuss reports of what is going on with the Daemon and how to effectively combat it, with each branch having very different opinions on what to do. Near the end of the first book, corporate interests are included on the talks at which point things take a turn for the worse over the course of the second book as the corporations begin to exert more and more control over the meetings, resulting in the imprisonment of the head of the NSA.
  • One-Steve Limit: Apparently, there are no other Matthew Sobols in the world for their obituaries to trigger the Daemon. For the Daemon to be able to differentiate between obituaries would almost certainly make it sentient, which it's not.
    • How many other Matthew Sobols are there that worked at CyberStorm and died of brain cancer? Finding the right obituary really wouldn't be very difficult.
    • Please note — The keywords used in each search are pointed out (bolded at the start of each chapter). The algorithm used to determine that this was the right one had a lot of ammo.
  • Out-Gambitted: The villains thought they had Sobol and the Daemon beat. They thought wrong.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Daemon to...pretty much everyone. Its programming is simple logic gates, too dumb to communicate with effectively, let alone reason with, so it cannot be negotiated with. Its processes were distributed across the entire Internet within moments of its activation, so it cannot be destroyed without purging everything. It uses keywords in news articles to activate events, and neural activity sensors on those it interrogates to see what they are thinking, so it cannot be deceived. Anyone trying to fight against it is constantly outwitted and a step behind its plans, and its creator, a genius game developer with loads of capital, thought of just about every possible contingency.
  • Perception Filter: the "Ring of Aggys" that rendered Ross invisible to digital cameras.
  • Post Cyber Punk: Especially in Freedom™, where the Daemon has progressed beyond destructive class warfare and subversion of the old system to guiding the formation of a new society.
  • Powered Armor: Some darknet operatives show up in Freedom™ wearing the primitive five-seconds-into-the-future "artificial musculature" suits.
  • Predatory Business: The Daemon's primary blackmail target. A major setting in Freedom™ is an agricultural darknet community battling "Halperin Organix", a Fictional Counterpart of Monsanto.
  • Private Military Contractors: Korr Military Solutions, Inc. is just one of many used to fight the Daemon.
  • Prop Recycling: Used In-Universe as an encryption strategy by the Daemon. See Hidden in Plain Sight above.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Ultimately what Sobol and his Daemon are trying to do for the entire PLANET. By distributing civilization into darknet nodes that are self-sustaining and self-sufficient, instead of having a global civilization completely dependent on imports and exports with very little wiggle room, the potential for human civilization to completely collapse decreases significantly. These communities are even establishing archives across the globe to help get humanity back on its feet within a couple generations after a collapse.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The head of the NSA during the secret meetings with the other heads of the American intelligence services. He seems the most level-headed and calm of them all, and the most committed to combating the Daemon while also minimizing the casualties. Good lot it does for him when he is arrested by the very corporations he is trying to protect.
    • By extension, Natalie Phillips , who by the start of the second book is the only named government authority figure alive, also serves this role. As a premiere analyst for the NSA, she is pretty much the only person in the government who even has a hope of fighting Sobol's Daemon.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Loki uses every one of his considerable assets to track down and destroy the person responsible for Merritt's death. Nothing and nobody gets in his way, civilian or not.
    • The Daemon sends heavily-armed strike teams to surgically eliminate spammer groups around the world simultaneously; it considers them parasites on the system and need to be excised, but you can't help but think it's a bit personal on the part of Sobol as well..and the author. Jeez, we all hate spammers but, Lord Almighty, this is just 'Greek Tragedy' levels of downright absurd vitriolic malice.
      • This last is noted in the book: Internet traffic is much lighter and more efficient without zombie PCs and spam stealing bandwidth, which is to the Daemon's benefit. Also, because, hey spammers suck.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Theorized to be as old as civilization, and the real basis of it;
    Price: America is just another brand purchased for its goodwill value. For that excellent fucking logo. ...It’s a process that’s been happening for thousands of years. Wealth aggregates and becomes political power. Simple as that. ‘Corporation’ is just the most recent name for it. In the Middle Ages it was the Catholic Church. They had a great logo, too. You might have seen it, and they had more branches than Starbucks. Go back before that, and it was Imperial Rome. It’s a natural process as old as humanity.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the end of Freedom™, Sobol wipes out the finances of the moguls behind The Conspiracy, then points out to their Mooks that their employers no longer have the money to pay them. The remnants of their mercenary army immediately surrender and the technicians in their control room grab their coats and head for the exits.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Sobol's Mansion, subverting the normal sequence:
    "Primary data center penetrated. Commencing self destruct sequence." There was a pause. "And there is no countdown."
  • Sequel Hook: Daemon ends with Sebeck and companion setting off on a road trip across America, leading into their part of Freedom™.
  • Shout-Out: Not an obvious or confirmed case, but you have remote control cars running amok as well as gunfire and explosions at the abandoned Alameda Naval base near San Francisco. Sound familiar?
    • Gragg/Loki's moniker is Stormbringer.
    • The Major is a key player in an faction not quite under governmental control. It's a bit of a stretch, but given that this is a cyberpunk work and the author has shown clear knowledge of anime/manga culture, a certain other Major comes to mind.
  • Shown Their Work: Daniel Suarez is a successful systems and networking security consultant, and it shows. The few times he varies from actual, implemented technology are for story reasons, and even then he still keeps it within the realm of possibility. See also Five Minutes Into The Future.
  • The Siege: Late in Freedom™ anti-Daemon mercenaries carry out one against a Daemon community.
  • Sinister Surveillance: During a meeting of top government TLAs, one of them orders the NSA to track down the Daemon and everyone associated using Echelon. In a realistic subversion of this trope, the NSA explains that the Daemon is using a sophisticated darknet for all its communications, and anyway, Echelon doesn't really work like that.
    • Played straight when it's discovered that the Daemon itself has infiltrated most of the accessible surveillance systems worldwide, either directly or through Social Engineering. However it's again played in a reasonably realistic fashion.
  • Storming the Castle: Book Ends. The FBI "attempts" one against Sobol's mansion early in Daemon, which doesn't go well. Near the end of Daemon, Loki returns the favor against the headquarters of an anti-Daemon task force singlehandedly. Near the end of Freedom™, he annihilates the anti-Daemon forces.
  • Super Prototype: The first AutoM8 is an Immune to Bullets solid-tired Hummer. Later ones use normal cars as a base and aren't so survivable.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Played with. At several points, people have complete, flowing conversations with tapes Sobol made of himself before he died, but just as often they say something that he couldn't have anticipated and the tape defaults to a message reminding them that he's not really talking with them.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Invoked by Loki/Gragg's special darknet-accessing contacts.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The event that kicks off the whole plot, of course.
  • Torture Always Works: The Major certainly thinks so...
    The Major: But not at producing information. Torture isn’t about extracting information. (waves wire cutters in Loki's face) Torture is about control. You let me torture a thousand people, and I can keep five million working obediently with their heads down. The more innocent the victims, the better. And after they’re broken and maimed, you release them so that everyone can see what awaits those who resist.
  • Tragic Villain: Sobol. Though, as the duology eventually makes plain, he's an Anti-Villain at worst, and more probably a fairly dark class of Anti-Hero, such as an Unscrupulous Hero or a darker Pragmatic Antihero.
  • Five Minutes into the Future: Believe it or not, all of the tech in the story has been demonstrated in some way. Most of it has never gone beyond the prototype stage, or is currently too bulky or impractical. By the time the story takes place, most of it is now at least viable, if not perfected and being mass produced. Given the continued speed of the advance in technology (i.e. Moore's Law), most of this stuff is probably not that far off from actually working. Also probably justified since Sobol spent hundreds of millions of his own fortune on R&D to make it all work.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We don't get to know what Loki/Gragg tells Oberstleutnant Boerner to get what he needs done and it works. Most of the villains' detailed plans don't fare so well.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Pete Sebeck.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: As the story develops, you discover this is Sobol's plan.
  • Video Wills: Sobol apparently recorded a lot of tapes before he died. So many, in fact, that it begins to make you wonder if he really died because he was too busy preparing his master plan to participate in proper medical treatment.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: It's outside of a videogame, but clearly the same trope — Loki sees people not part of the Darknet as NPCs, and treats them as such. When he is permitted to kill them, he does so eagerly and cruelly. Even when he isn't, he torments them in any way he can.
  • Virtual Ghost: The Burning Man is a simulation of Merritt, visible only in the augmented reality of the darknet, and as accurate a recreation of the actual Merritt as the darknet was able to create. His vast power is only possible from "donations" from individuals in the darknet as a means of preventing any single person from becoming too powerful. i.e. he is the embodiment of justice, as the darknet saw Merritt to be in real life.
    • The Burning Man censures Loki by pulling him from level 60 down to level 10, which requires it to give up the number of levels he removes from Loki. He is almost instantly recouped up to level Overly High by donations from the audience.
    • Loki uses his power to release pseudo-AI Oberstleutnant Heinrich Boerner from the game "Over the Rhine" and give him full access to the darknet.
  • Wainscot Society: The Daemon's darknet. It can only be perceived via Augmented Reality, and in an interesting twist, they point out how normal society isn't just ignoring theirs, but all kinds of equally important information immediately relevant to their lives; clerks don't really look at the prices on registers, just the final total. Most people aren't aware of their real credit ratings — or that they could be kicked out of most of the places they wander at any time.
  • We Are Everywhere: The Daemon has recruits everywhere. If you are not part of the Daemon's plans it's because it either hasn't picked you yet, or you are dead.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: In Freedom™, the Daemon gives cybernetics to Loki after the Major performs a Borrowed Biometric Bypass on him — AKA cuts out his fingertips, eyes and tongue.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sobol again.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: A three-way war between Playful Hackers, Government Conspiracies and Predatory Businesses where Everything Is Online and the Establishment's trump card boils down to, "destroy the Internet." And La Résistance's ultimate goal is to turn civilization over to a Benevolent A.I. which recognizes only a person's ability and intention instead of their wealth, influence or capacity for violence. Gee, this sounds a lot like John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider. But Suarez is a lot better at Showing His Work — and the Daemon has much cooler toys.
  • Worthy Opponent: Gragg and the rest of the darknet see Merritt this way. (The feelings are not reciprocated.)

"Good luck to you all. And don’t be afraid of change. It’s the only thing that can save us."
Matthew Sobol