Saturday, September 11, 2010

Omnitopia Dawn - Diane Duane

Omnitopia Dawn
Omnitopia, Book 1
Diane Duane


The year is 2015, and I’m going on the assumption that this story takes place in an alternate reality, since MMORPGs have completely surpassed TV and movies in popularity. The most popular game, boasting millions of players, is called Omnitopia. It’s not just one world, but a series of worlds, called Macrocosms, connected by a central portal. The interesting twist is that certain players are given the right to create their own worlds, called Microcosms. The player-creator shares in any royalties generated by the Microcosm, meaning anything from a couple of bucks to a real living, depending on how other players react and use the space.

Dev Logan is the creator of Omnitopia and is now one of the wealthiest men in the world. In-game, he’s known as the First Player. He’s built an entire campus for his company in Tempe, AZ. As the book begins, they’re just days away from a major expansion rollout. Of course, being big makes you a big target, and there are plenty of people who would like to see Dev, the company, the game, or all three, go down in flames. Hackers are an obvious threat, but this time they’re got some serious backing and are looking to crash and loot the system. For some reason, someone thought this would be a great time for a reporter from Time to be running around the campus working on a feature article. Add in a disgruntled former partner who can’t quite let go of the past, and there’s a recipe for some serious industrial espionage.

Since this is the first book in a series, there’s clearly going to be a lot of groundwork done here. Sadly, that groundwork tends to overshadow the actual plotlines all too often. For the first half of the book, the most interesting bits follow a player around inside the game. The game (or the central world of it) seems roughly akin to “World of Warcraft” or “Everquest.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with those games will get the point. In Omnitopia, though, players make all decisions, from where to place buildings to who is elected mayor of a major city. Aside from technical issues, the company maintains a very hands-off policy. This leads to some interesting in-game developments, but that’s all quickly dropped in favor of endless descriptions of the company’s campus. I’m hoping these incidents will be expanded on in future volumes.

The main development of the story, and one I will not spoil here, doesn’t really come to fruition until very late in the book. Again, I’m sure that this will be an overarching theme of the series, but it takes a long time to happen. I’ve read several of the author’s previous fantasy works and enjoyed them. For me, the problem here is really one of pacing. I feel like this novel is full of info dumps and introductions and getting all the players on the board, but perhaps I’m being uncharitable. To an extent, that’s what happens with the first book in any series. I have more than enough confidence in this author to view this book as a springboard for the next. I’m willing to wait and see how it all evolves in the second installment. There are a lot of different threads left dangling, and I know Ms. Duane can weave a satisfying story.

Rating: 7
August 2010
ISBN# 978-0-7564-0623-3 (hardcover)


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