Review: “Omnitopia Dawn,” Diane Duane

Pros: Bad guy with depth; gets better and better as it goes
Cons: Slow beginning; one significant expected ‘twist’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

Dev Logan created Omnitopia: a massively multiplayer online game that provides portals to all sorts of virtual realms, or macrocosms. It even allows some players to create their own microcosms to their own designs, and share in the profits if they prove popular. If you can imagine it, you can find it in Omnitopia: historical battle recreations, alien wars, or just a pretty, perfect beach.

Omnitopia is about to get a huge upgrade and expansion. Tens of millions of players eagerly await the changes. But while Dev and his people run themselves ragged to get things out the door on time, someone’s planning a massive attack on the system. Their goal is nothing less than the destruction of everything Dev has worked for, with no regard to consequences or collateral damage.

 

Diane Duane’s Omnitopia Dawn is the first book in the Omnitopia series. It starts out slowly. I tend to take notes while I read, and my notes this time read, “don’t read while sleepy”; I found that out the hard way.

I think of Omnitopia Dawn as cyberpunk without the punk. There are virtual offices and meeting spaces, technology that allows you to feel and smell as well as see the virtual spaces around you, and so forth. When the characters fight against hackers, much of that fight takes place in a bizarre virtual landscape that didn’t give me a very good feel for the real battle being fought. The story did eventually pick up and pull me in. The real-world portion of the hacking and the fight against it proved much more interesting to me.

I love the relationship between Dev and his wife Mirabel–it’s very loving while simultaneously being very different from most other loving relationships I see depicted; it’s refreshing and fun. I also quite like the depiction of the bad guy. We get to see the death of his relationship with Dev through his recollections, and it gives great insight into his personality, and how he can think that he’s being reasonable when he so clearly isn’t. It’s one of the better explorations I’ve seen of a bad guy’s motivations and morality.

The major plot twist (don’t worry, I won’t give it away) was more than a little bit expected, rather than surprising. That said, Duane carried it off well enough that I still really enjoyed it.

It would be easy for a book that started so slowly and had such a predictable major plot development to just be kind of ‘meh.’ It’s pretty impressive that despite those it pulled me in, gave me a real stake in its characters’ plights, and held my interest through the end. I might not rush out to find the sequel, but I am interested to read it.

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