What if our civilization is more advanced than we know?
The New York Times best-selling author of Daemon - "the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured" (Publishers Weekly) - imagines a world in which decades of technological advances have been suppressed in an effort to prevent disruptive change.
Are smartphones really humanity's most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century - fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common diseases, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances - have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960s failed to arrive?
Perhaps it did arrive…but only for a select few.
Particle physicist Jon Grady is ecstatic when his team achieves what they've been working toward for years: A device that can reflect gravity. Their research will revolutionize the field of physics - the crowning achievement of a career. Grady expects widespread acclaim for his entire team. The Nobel Prize. Instead, his lab is locked down by a shadowy organization whose mission is to prevent at all costs the social upheaval sudden technological advances bring. This Bureau of Technology Control uses the advanced technologies they have harvested over the decades to fulfill their mission.
They are living in our future.
Presented with the opportunity to join the BTC and improve his own technology in secret, Grady balks, and is instead thrown into a nightmarish high-tech prison built to hold rebellious geniuses like himself. With so many great intellects confined together, can Grady and his fellow prisoners conceive of a way to usher humanity out of its artificial dark age?
And when they do, is it possible to defeat an enemy that wields a technological advantage half a century in the making?
©2014 Daniel Suarez (P)2014 Penguin Audio
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
Grab this if you are hankering for a tightly paced scifi thriller that is heavy on the technology and science speak. Parts of this book (particularly the beginning) reminded me of the work of Robert Charles Wilson, with science ideas coming so fast and furious that some readers might feel overwhelmed.
Some of the information covered is current and factual, such as the main character’s special way of perceiving numbers as colors. His diagnosis of “grapheme synesthesia” separated him from other children, but also propelled him to become a scientist. A quick Google search reveals that this is a real life experience for some people.
The fictional science comes in when the protagonist invents a “gravity mirror.” This part of the book should please physics majors as it gets into some pretty specific details about how the mirror is not the same as anti-gravity. I got a bit lost but still liked the science-y feel of these passages.
There are also plenty of action sequences worthy of any summer blockbuster. In particular, I thought the torture scenes were among the most terrifying I have ever seen. The interrogator is an AI (artificial intelligence) which has infinite patience. As the protagonist tries to hold onto treasured memories to get himself through the torture, the AI deletes those memories one by one, eventually deleting his memory of how to resist pain. How could anyone resist under those circumstances?
I know I would not be able to resist if Influx were to come to a multiplex near me.
[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Jeff Gurner. At first his voice sounded like any one of a dozen audiobook narrators. But as the book went along, I began to appreciate the way he was able to change his voice just slightly and become a completely different person. He gave some characters accents with a very light touch, not clubbing the listener over the head but just enough so that you always knew who was talking. There were other little touches, such as giving the head of the CIA George Bush’s voice, adding humor where appropriate, and terror when the going got really tough for the protagonists. Basically, his narration was so excellent that I got completely wrapped up in the story and could see it playing out before my eyes. Too bad he can’t play all the parts if they make this into a movie.]
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
Daniel Suarez knows some science, but his plot could have been written by a 12-year-old.
The story opens in an interesting way, but soon goes off the rails with some ridiculous choices by the author:
1. The bad guys are too evil. This is a common problem in storytelling, and it makes for a boring plot that lacks nuance and creativity.
2. For all his knowledge about science, Suarez demonstrates absolutely no understanding of how scientific discoveries and applications come to be, As a result, he imagines that one laboratory full of people can advance science in 50 years as much as the entire planet could in maybe 150 years. They are magically able to capitalize on every scientific breakthrough they find, and in months or years they've developed them to their logical end.
This story takes so many liberties that it's impossible to suspend disbelief. Suarez's plot never even comes close to the realm of plausibility, even if you accept his moronic premise.
This book started out interesting, then got weird, then got unbelievable, then got really good! You have to turn off your reality filters for this one though. Suarez goes way more sci-fi than he usually does. Once you accept this it is a fun read!
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
This a a good story that actually ends at the end of the book. There will be no sequel (Although wasn't that what George Lucas said about Star Wars until Disney bought him out.) It ends with a certain sense of finality. I can't imagine how the author will try to extend this series. I have listened to many books recently that actually don't end. The author just wants to make you buy the next book. Charles Dickens actually wrote his novels as a "series" but each book stood on its own. This a good one book thriller/SciFi novel that is an enjoyable listen. One book in and out. Done.
I've been watching a lot of Top Chef lately and one thing that often happens is that a chef will attempt to make a dish that takes hours (or days) in a much shorter timeframe. Occasionally it's disastrous, but more often it ends up mediocre. Complex flavors take time to build. Things that are nearly inedible at thirty minutes might be delightful at eight hours. Influx is one of those dishes. All of the right ingredients are there, but instead of letting it simmer and work itself into perfect complexity, Chef Suarez took it off the burner and served it too soon. The texture of this sauce is off and the flavors are undeveloped, but it's still edible.
For example, the validity of the mission of the Beureau of Technology Control is never addressed. Formed during the Cold War, the BTC was tasked with containing technology that would cause social disruption. The only way to stay ahead of the highly innovative and extraordinarily intelligent creators of such technology was to make use of that technology to capture and detain them. At some point, pressure from splinter organizations caused the BTC to pursue the development and mastery of an AI capable of intuitive thinking in order to continue escalating the arms race. This is justified in terms of the initial mandate through AI-modelled predictions of the collapse of humanity (mostly due to population explosion) should certain technologies become widely available.
I'm having a hard time believing that they would not consider, especially given the scientific advances they have available, humanity's expansion to space as a viable option. I can insert justifications -- the AI are biased by the limited perspective and distorted purpose of the people who created them and therefore are incapable of these considerations -- but even that falls apart. We know at least one of the AIs is fully sentient and resists the control of the BTC.
Additionally, about halfway through the bad guy goes from being evil with a reason to being eeeeevil wanting to take over the world with his ray gun (well, not exactly, but I won't spoil it for you). Once that happened, I stopped caring.
It is the story it is, and I accept that. But I can't help but with it had been a duology or a trilogy, with the first book being a smaller story in scope and with the saving of the world (and take-down of the eeeeevil organization) for the second book, once we care about the characters.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
When a character has an unusual condition, in this case synesthesia, where the senses conflate, where sounds are felt as colors, for example, you really want such a powerful potential metaphor to figure into the story and character.
When you take the admirable path of building a science fiction story on a strong foundation of science fact, you have to make the science understandable to an audience that likely has a knowledge of science at a high school level, maybe some college.
When you create a double chase, where characters are being pursued by one group while pursuing the real bad guys, you have to follow the advice of the master, Alfred Hitchchock, and establish a McGuffin that is credible to the reader.
These are three big problems in Influx. Synesthesia explains how an relatively uneducated scientist can come up with technology that alters gravity, but his altered perspective hardly figures into the story otherwise, a major missed literary opportunity.
The physics behind his gravity-bending machine is so dense, and so densely front-loaded, that one cannot imagine making it past the first few chapters unless you have graduate level education in physics. Too bad, because the story gets better from that point on.
But as good as the story gets once the science is explained, the McGuffin that drives the plot simply makes no sense. Setting up a massive secret and deadly organization to hoard technology in pursuit of global domination makes no sense when you can easily achieve global domination by releasing that technology (it's like Dr. Evil's plan to extort One. Million. Dollars!). That pesky razor of Mr. Occam, derailing another far-fetched premise.
I saw a review of Influx that took the shape of a bell curve, the book getting increasingly better as the science is explained and worse as the science takes a back seat to the action. Different strokes for different folks. As much as I like science fact in my science fiction, Influx got worse as it delved deeper into the dense technology and progressively better as it fell back onto traditional action sequences.
The story was semi-interesting, however it did have some predictable twists, and the characters never felt real or interesting enough for me to care what was happening. If you are into action and creative technology dominating the story you might like this book, but with somewhat cardboard characters this fell flat for me.
Farm boy that has traveled and lived all over the US. Enjoy stories involving history as well as science fiction.
It draws you in and keeps you there to the end. Excellent story. I'm going to miss listening to this one !!
"In the end, I didn't care"
Getting past the fact that the narrator has a very annoying voice and reading style, by about 3/4 of the way in, I just didn't care what happened. I predicted what would happen and then ramped the playback speed up to x1.5 to get it over with.
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