by Daniel Suarez
read by Jeff Gurner
published by Penguin Audio
13 hours and 6 minutes.
When I first found out about this book I knew it was a science-fiction novel and because that is my favorite genre, I knew I had to give this a shot. As I was listening to the audiobook I kept hearing more and more news reports about drone aircraft in action around the world and I realized that this piece of science-fiction is not too far from science-fact which is a bit scary.
Before we get to the plot of this book the term “Kill Decision” may need some explaining for the non-military lay-person. The kill decision is what keeps the human touch in modern warfare. While many forms of drone (unmanned) aircraft are used today the actual decision to fire on targets is made by a human, usually a high-ranking military person. This decision to fire on targets is the “Kill Decision.” This book focuses on the idea of what happens if we leave that decision to the machines.
The author, Daniel Suarez, definitely did his homework and covered all bases when creating a technology that sounds like it could logically happen today. We already know about the militaries of the world using drones and doing so with remote control using onboard cameras. Suarez explores not only the possibility of what would happen if someone were to try fully automated drones that pick their own targets, he takes it even further by explaining how all of this technology could come together. From facial recognition software, to graphic analysis software, to hive mentality of insects used as a model for numerous drones working together. Suarez then goes even further to explain how the spin doctors would use social media to create positive views of unmanned warfare. Altogether this creates an in depth sci-fi techno thriller that sounds like something that could be happening right now.
The reader of this audiobook, Jeff Gurner, deserves some sort of an award for this production. He was able to present every little detail of the story with some masterful voicework. He presented each character with subtle voice changes that made it so each character, even the minor ones, came to full three dimensional life. Even when two of the major players were free falling from a plane being bombed by drones, through Gurner’s voice work I could see the Earth getting closer and I found myself holding my breath until chutes were pulled. Actually thanks to his delivery and the excellent writing I found myself holding my breath several times throughout this book.
This book takes the listener from Iraq, to Stanford University, to Africa, to Pakistan, to Kansas City, to Utah, to Mexico to China and numerous other places in tracking down who is creating fully automated drones and using them to start a war.
A group at Stanford have created code that allows computers to have their own vision and use video feeds to alert users of strange occurrences. Just as they are about to publish and make millions their lawyers inform them that the code is already on the internet and cannot be patented. Just as the group is discussing what to do about who stole their code their building is destroyed by drones.
Linda McKinney is in Africa studying the swarming behavior of weaver ants when her camp is attacked by drones. Luckily (maybe) for Linda she is saved by a government agency whose members are buried so deep in the secrecy of government operations that they actually don’t exist. The group’s leader, Odin, tells her her study in the swarming of ants is being used as a prototype in creating automated drones. Not believing this Linda escapes and is captured by the FBI. When she tries to explain her story the FBI do not believe her, but once Homeland Security becomes involved Linda thinks someone is about to believe her.
Through thrilling stops around the world the team try to track down the manufacturer of the drones and attempt at preventing a war in which all killing will be done by the drones and all of humanity is in danger. In what is an excellent mix of several science-fiction and espionage genres of storytelling, “Kill Decision” will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last word and after that will keep you looking over your shoulder.