Innovation, new technology, transparency, secrecy, government control and the totalitarian temptation: An Appreciation of Daniel Suarez’s Influx, the 2015 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear what makes each winner deserve recognition as notable pro-freedom sf/fantasy, the Libertarian Futurist Society is presenting a series of weekly Appreciations of past award-winners.

Here’s the latest Appreciation for Daniel Suarez’s Influx, the 2015 Prometheus Award winner for Best Novel:

By Michael Grossberg
Influx dramatizes the evils of totalitarian government control over people’s lives.

The central theme is close to libertarian and classical-liberal hearts and minds: the terrible and potentially totalitarian dangers of government control of information, and its libertarian corollary about the tremendous value and necessity of transparency in an open society.

Daniel Suarez’s sci-fi-laced techno-thriller depicts a government so concerned about politically destabilizing and potentially dangerous innovations after the moon landings of the 1960s and early 1970s that it created a secret Bureau of Technology Control to manage and limit the introduction of new technologies into public awareness and society.

The authoritarian bureau, a covert federal U.S. government organization, has a mission to suppress the news, truth and publish spread of potentially disruptive technological innovations and inventions. Their goal is allegedly to prevent social upheaval triggered by technological change, but actually, their elitist and corrupt mission rewards a select elite by monopolizing the inventions to preserve their power.

Inventors who don’t follow the bureau’s edicts and other rebels are sentenced to an Orwellian and Stalinist-style secret high-tech prison with fiendishly oppressive use of new technology to control and dehumanize innocent people who threaten the government’s power.

Note: The German title for Suarez’s novel Influx is Control

When Jon Grady, an unconventional physicist and inventor, and his team discover a device that can reflect gravity and thereby revolutionize physics and dramatically open up new possibilities for humankind’s future, his lab is locked down by the bureau and he is “disappeared” from his life and work.

The bureau attempts to coopt Grady to work for them secretly, to invent more technology that enhances their power. Heroically, Grady refuses, believing that keeping scientific knowledge from the public is wrong.

To end the impending new dark age, Grady and other imprisoned rebels and maverick inventors and thinkers must fight ruthless individuals and a rogue government already living in our future and armed with mind-blowing genetic technology.

Suarez, widely hailed as an heir to Michael Chrichton for his distinctive blend of near-future technology and science with thrilling action, employs dark humor, suspense, an intricate plot, surprising twists and his fertile techno-imagination to paint a chilling portrait of government tyranny while highlighting the humanity of his rebels.

In the early 21stcentury, Suarez’s themes especially resonate, even amidst the many other social and economic changes rippling through society because of technological progress.

New technology, like new ideas, can certainly disrupt conventional assumptions and life as we know it. Yet, government prohibitions, political controls and authoritarian elites hiding from transparency and avoiding accountability historically have tended to make bad situations much worse –  which makes Influx an especially timeless and cautionary tale about the perennial threat to liberty and humanity from excesses and abuses of State power.

(Note: This was Suarez’s second Prometheus award nomination, following Kill Decision ,a 2013 Prometheus Award finalist for Best Novel. Suarez also has been nominated for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Change Agent (in 2018) and for Delta-V (in 2020).

* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: A 40thAnniversary Celebration and appreciations of the next novel to be recognized with a Prometheus Awards: Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, the 2016 winner for Best Novel.

* See related introductory essay about the LFS’ 40thanniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history.

* Other Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the recently updated and enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit volunteer association of libertarian sf/fantasy fans and freedom-lovers.
Libertarian futurists believe cultural change is as vital as political change (and often more fulfilling, positive and productive long-term) in achieving universal individual rights and a better world  for all.

Published by

Mike Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been a writer, arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Most recently, Michael won the 2019 Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio (for theater reviews) and Best Arts Reporting (which he’s won seven times). He's written for Reason and Libertarian Review magazines, was a regional columnist for years for Backstage weekly, helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword/essay for the first paperback edition of J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among the books he recommends to inform a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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