Edition 10: Book Review: The Daedalus Code by Colin F Barnes
Reviewed by Damien Smith
I’ve not previously had the pleasure of reading anything by Colin F. Barnes before, but I came across him recently on the wonderful medium that is Twitter. A brief conversation later and I decided to take the plunge on an unknown author and take a look at The Daedalus Code—a cyberpunk novella set in an all-too-believable future. I’ve since found out Barnes has another novella, a novel (very soon to be two novels) and a bunch of short stories under his belt. Not to spoil this review before it starts, but more of his work has suddenly made it to my ‘To Read’ list.
The world has changed. Crete (now ‘New Crete’) is the financial and technical centre of the world, a world where information is not just king, it is the only thing, and the divide between the haves and have-nots is effectively uncrossable.
New Crete is built across 10 levels—a hierarchy both physically and practically; the top couple are the mega-rich and those born into privilege; the middle few are as high as one who is not born into the upper crust can expect to climb and the bottom levels are best not spoken of. Everyone links into an all-encompassing web of information via Personal Reality (PR) units—head pieces that can deliver information, entertainment, artificial highs and matrix-style scenarios—effectively what Google Glass dreams of being when it grows up.
We open with agents Phaedra and Aegeus of New Crete’s Intelligent Data Enforcement Agency (IDEA) investigating the disappearance of a series of children of the wealthy, all of whom specialise in Artificial Intelligence research. Unfortunately, since IDEA is as much a box-ticking exercise by the powers that be as a law-enforcement body, our agents find their hands somewhat tied during the investigation. Enter Mouse, the resourceful hacker and real protagonist of the story.
Mouse’s investigations take him on stealth missions to the upper levels of New Crete and down into the bowels of the lower levels, which would have the feel of the Undercity in Demolition Man if it had been dipped in a sump and left to rot for a year. The secrets and corruption he uncovers threaten to shake the very foundations of society.
In every work of fiction there is a delicate balance between leaving too much to the imagination and giving a big information download with a Star Wars-esque scrolling prologue. What is impressive about The Daedalus Code is the fact that Barnes is able to build such a believable dystopian society with a minimal download, outside the first 3-4 pages. The rest of the world became clear as the characters wandered through it. The main characters also had sufficient dark background and flaws to be believable.
My biggest gripe with The Daedalus Code was that, given the scope of the story, it was squeezed into a novella. The pace of the story was breakneck out of necessity, but I would have loved for it to be teased out into a longer format to allow sufficient time for everything to unfold. However, given the format, this is a story that can be devoured in a single sitting, so if you’re into cyberpunk dystopian futures there’s really no reason not to give this a go.
Colin F Barnes keeps his cyber household over at http://www.colinfbarnes.com/ but is also active and very approachable across social media.
The Daedalus Code by Colin F Barnes
Publisher: Createspace, 2013
Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.