Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Omnitopia Dawn, by Diane Duane

I really must stop reading the first books of series when the second books aren't out yet! But this one's safe: no cliffhanger ending.

Omnitopia Dawn is the first book in a series of unspecified length about the creator of a massively multiplayer online game and his fight to save his creation from evil hackers and underhanded corporate competition. Have I lost you yet? It's an adult book, and I was worried when a lot of scenes were set in boardrooms and offices and characters were Chief Financial Officers and suchlike. But not to fear: the true setting is Omnitopia itself, every gamer's perfect fantasy, every fantasy-reader's dream made real. Dev Logan's genius is that he's created a game platform that can be anything, any world you can imagine populated with any characters you can think up. And with his new RealFeel game controller, you can enter the world and feel as though you are there, complete with smelly griffin poop to step in.

It's not an original idea--how can it be, when it's what every video game aspires to--but Duane makes it convincing and oh-so-appealing. So when we find out about the former-friend-turned-corporate-rival who has hired some criminal hackers to bring down Logan's system right when he's rolling out a new expansion, we're invested, we care, we start cheering for the CFO and the programmers and various other employees who rally to face down the threat. And the battle is conducted within Omnitopia, so Dev gets to wield a convincing Sword of Truth, and shutting down attackers' IPOs is rendered as bashing them with clubs etc. (There is definitely some hero/king imagery going on that translates back into the real world in interesting ways. Dev Logan is perhaps a bit too Good to be entirely convincing, but in the end you swallow it because you really want to.)

I'm no computer geek, but Diane Duane seems to know what she's talking about when it comes to the science behind Omnitopia (apparently she once developed a game for Electronic Arts, so she does know whereof she speaks). At any rate, all the programming-speak was realistic enough to fool me. I suspect that if you really enjoy stories about corporate espionage and financial finagling then you'll find this one a little thin, because Omnitopia is all about the magic. Thank goodness!

The story ends satisfactorily (no cliffhangers=much happiness!), but there are intriguing sequel possibilities. In the meantime, if someone would actually develop something like Omnitopia, I would definitely want to play! Guess I'll just have to keep reading fantasy.

Omnitopia Dawn is like chocolate ice cream: fun and satisfying and sweet and you'll definitely want more.


  1. I LOOOOOOVE Duane's Young Wizards series (it reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle), but haven't read anything else by her. The probable length of an adult book is scaring me though-- I've actually got the last Young Wizards book in my library pile right now, and keep eyeing it warily, saying, "Right, I know I'm going to love you, but WHY do you have to be SO DANG THICK?!" and that's YA. So, is the possible-bogging-down factor balanced out by the but-everything-that-happens-is-COOL factor enough that I have no need to be scared away by length?

  2. The premise of this book as you've described it got me intrigued, so I was gonna get it on kindle, but as I'm trying to cut back on purchases, I decided to check to see if the Fraser valley online book library has it, and sure enough they have two copies, one of which was actually available. And since I recently discovered an iPad app that supports the protected Adobe epub files the library uses, I'll be able to read it on my iPad. I only have 21 days to read it though, so I'll have to interrupt my reading of book 13 of the wheel of time series that just came out, even though I only have about 100 pages left... it is a 900 page book after all.

  3. Hi rockinlibrarian; sorry it took me a month to respond. (In my defense, it was the always crazy month of December, and I was out of town for half of it). I bought Omnitopia because of how much I loved the Young Wizards, and at first I was disappointed because it's a very different kind of book. Once I got over my "this isn't a Young Wizards book" reaction, I enjoyed it and found it a fast read with an intriguing premise, and I'm curious to see where she takes it. But do I think you should drop everything and read it? I'd say you could wait until she comes out with the next one and then decide if it's a series you want to get into.

  4. Hey Scott, I'm curious to know if you read it, and what you think, especially in comparison with Orson Scott Card's treatment of the same theme.