Axon, Inc. is a tightly-focused novel, concentrating on the lives of just a few characters. Following up on the in-depth discussion of the protagonist, Walden Reathall, this post discusses another agonist: Logan Byrnes. Like that post, there are no ‘spoilers’ here, just notes about character inspiration and background.
In the summer of 2017, Walden went to summer church camp and met Logan Byrnes. Their friendship was immediate and intense. Logan, who was born in Scotland but grew up in a poor part of Seattle, was another quiet, serious child. For him, though, it wasn’t enough to just read about things. He hurled his whole being into everything that interested him. He built telescopes and engines from parts scrounged from the neighborhood; he experimented on plants and insects, and his room sometimes crawled with lizards, snakes, and worms; and he was often found by the police wandering miles from home, exploring. The third of six siblings, his parents rarely had time to watch him carefully. His father was a computer programmer, but not a great one, and his salary was spread thin over six children. So Logan would often shoplift gifts or food for his brother and sisters. He learned judo (he refused to tell anyone how) and then taught it in turn to his family and friends, and they would fearlessly wander the most dangerous streets in the evenings. He taught himself various computer languages from a young age, and by the time he met Walden, he’d already built three of his own machines, and worked part time doing contract programming — illegally, because he was a minor.
The intimate relationship between Logan and Walden eventually cooled. For Walden, Logan was simply too intense, too wild and unpredictable. They always remained close, always better able to understand each other than anyone else in their lives, but Walden needed a lot of emotional distance. Logan understood, and gave it to him. They maintained their friendship online after high school. Neither of them entered college — Walden’s grades were too poor, and Logan was simply too poor, period. While Walden entered the military, Logan worked a few low-paying contract programming jobs, apparently spending most of his time doing drugs and playing games.
But when Walden left the military, Logan already had hatched a scheme to get them both into a good college. All it required was Walden’s money and Logan’s hacking skills, which he’d quietly honed to an amazing degree. Logan and Walden applied to and entered the University of Washington in the fall of 2024, with no irregularities in their records at all.
At school, Logan experimented a lot — with machines, with software, with cheating, with his social and sexual partners, with drugs, and with himself. But he did extremely well at UW, graduating with highest honors.
After college, Logan and Walden went into business, founding a rapid series of start-ups with their other school friends. At first things went well, and they made a lot of money very quickly. But within a few years things began to go sour: business deals led inevitably to riskier ventures, morally ambiguous enterprises, and distasteful compromises. Logan’s take-no-prisoners approach to entrepreneurship, apparently having no qualms about using any kind of secrecy or treachery for business advantage, alienated all of his partners one by one. His last venture with Walden was an organ-sharing clearing house, illegal in most countries but extremely profitable. Eventually, when that grew too abhorrent even for Walden, Logan dropped out of Walden’s life and disappeared for most of a year — before reappearing suddenly with a revolutionary technology.
Logan is based on Loki, a being of uncertain origin who was something between a god and a giant. He was a shapeshifter and a mischievous trickster, but it’s clear that, in the beginning at least, he cared deeply for the other gods and was firmly on their side in their struggles against the giants. With cunning and guile, he orchestrated the raising of the wall around Asgard, and gained almost all the great treasures of the gods — Thor’s hammer, Odin’s spear, Sif’s necklace, Freyr’s chariot and boar, and so on. But he compromised his honor and broke many promises, creating enemies inside Asgard and out.
If Odin was effeminate, Loki was downright gender-ambiguous. As a shape-shifter and trickster, his identity as ‘male’ was far from firmly established. For example, he turned himself into a mare in order to trick a giant, and in that form he gave birth to Odin’s six-legged horse Sleipnir, a steed that could carry Odin to the realm of the Dead and back.
Nevertheless he had many female lovers, including his Aesir wife Sigyn and his jotun wife Angrboda. Angrboda bore him three monstrous children — the mighty wolf Fenrir, the world-serpent Jormungandr, and Hel, the monarch of the dead. They were so dangerous that the gods bound and banished them all.
Loki, increasingly embittered by his ill-treatment by both gods and giants and the loss of his children, became more spiteful and vengeful. Eventually he tricked the blind god, Honir, into killing Odin’s son Balder. After this, Loki was hunted down and imprisoned until the end of the world. At Ragnarök, Loki will lead an army of ghosts against Asgard, and his three monstrous children will defeat and kill Odin and Thor.