As if aerial drone warfare wasn't scary enough already...
Oct 19, 2012
I'm a fan of Daniel Suarez's novels, as I like how he can take advanced technology and push it to the edge to create a nightmare scenario. In Kill Decision, Suarez takes the topic of unmanned aerial drones, combines them with software to make autonomous decisions, and you get a form of warfare that has few defenses. Even worse, you have some powerful vested interests who want to make sure that the public has the correct "opinion" of these drones. Suarez paints a picture that is both scary and not all that implausible in the next few years.
The story centers around a black ops military group that is sent in under cover to take care of less-than-legal situations. They rescue a researcher from her compound in Africa before a drone strike destroys the area. Her study of insect hive behavior has apparently been used in drone programming to allow a large number of small autonomous drones to attack an area and make decisions based on the conditions they face. It's a good bet that foreign governments are making these cheap weapons and planning a strike that will render regular military defense impotent against mass drone swarms. It may also be possible that elements in our own government are willing to incur some damage to sway public opinion in a direction that would allow more domestic use of drones to "protect" us. Even though the black ops group has been told to stand down in their mission to find and destroy the drones, they aren't convinced that their orders are coming from the people who *should* be concerned about what's happening. They have to find answers quickly before the very thing they're trying to destroy ends up destroying them.
This novel, like the others that Suarez wrote, was easy to get into, and I was in a "don't want to stop reading" mode within a chapter or two. In my mind, the characters took a bit of a back seat to the technology of drone warfare, both for where it is right now, and for what it could easily become. While it might be easy to brush off some of the drone possibilities as fantasy, I didn't see it that way. That whole topic is shrouded in secrecy, and it's not a huge leap from unmanned drones to drones making decisions on their own. Couple cheap single-purpose drones with insect-like behavior algorithms, and the possibilities become rather scary. It's certain that "mass" and "cheap" have already been mastered...
I really liked Kill Decision. Certain parts of the story (such as groups that have seemingly unlimited resources to run deception operations) might be pushing the edges of credibility, but the way the story weaves around how unmanned drones can (and will) obliterate traditional warfare strategy makes up for it.
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
"Perfectly blending nail-biting suspense with accessible science, bestseller Suarez establishes himself as a legitimate heir to Michael Crichton with this gripping present-day thriller." --Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"A confident thriller that leaves us wondering notwhetherits fictional premise will one day become reality, but when. " --Kirkus Reviews on Kill Decision"
"A plausible account of how, and more importantly, why, the real 'skynet' might be created." --Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc.
"Kill Decision is a fantastic techno-thriller. As someone who has designed combat robots myself, I found the technology depicted both accurate and chilling." --Alexander Rose,Roboticist &Executive Director ofThe Long Now Foundation
"Suarez's fiction is closer to reality than most people think." --Chris Anderson, author & Editor-in-Chief, Wired Magazine