14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2010
I had no idea this book was coming. In fact, I found it completely by accident--a serendipity that completely turned my day around. Disclaimer: anything Ms. Duane writes, I read. That said, I like to consider myself a pretty good judge of literature after almost forty years' practice!
The product description gives a decent synopsis of the plot's frame, but it leaves out how rich the characters are, how complex the game is, and the many threads that go to make up the story. If you like what Ms. Duane did in Tom Clancy's universe, you'll love this one. If you have a special place in your heart for High Wizardry, this will delight you too. But I don't want to say more, lest I give it all away...
This is classic Duane--characters that are instantly real and distinguishable and likeable. I even felt a little sorry for the antagonist, because the character is human, a mix of good and evil; no cardboard cutouts here. There are some wonderfully funny moments (the cow? Really??) and probably a few inside jokes I'm missing. *grin*
The story isn't perfect; there are some unresolved issues and what feels like too many POVs, but that is made less detracting when one considers that this is the first in a series. There are also more than a few typographical errors, which surprised me, but that's an increasing trend these days, alas.
It left me wanting desperately to be able to play too. Maybe someday...
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2010
Despite being a multi-billion-dollar industry, a driving force in the world of technology, and a pastime shared by millions worldwide, online gaming doesn't get the greatest treatment in science fiction. It's either ignored, bypassed for the more obvious target of the Internet, or worse, treated as a sort of corruptive force. "Omnitopia Dawn", however, asks a unique question: what if an online game could be a force for creation and human development? How could such a world survive without being destroyed or going out of balance?
The answer is, through the people involved in creating and maintaining it. "Omnitopia Dawn" is actually surprisingly character driven for speculative fiction, with a rich cast of characters who never feel false or one-dimensional. Prime among them is Dev Logan, creator and CEO of the titular game, who's struggling to keep his creation afloat in the face of an upcoming expansion and a vindictive ex-partner set on seeing him humbled. Further illustrating the rich world and culture of Omnitopia are interludes following a cast of equally interesting supporting characters: Rik, a family man who's given a rare chance to create his own piece of the virtual world; Delia, a reporter with a hidden agenda; and even Logan's former partner Paul Sorensen, who's using any means at his disposal to destroy Omnitopia.
Of course, Omnitopia is almost as much of a character as any of the humans. Duane goes out of her way to make the culture and players of the game realistic and diverse. Technological concerns are occasionally handwaved away--like a virtual reality device that somehow transmits scent and touch through the optic nerve--but for the most part, Omnitopia feels completely plausible. The better-than-Google culture of the business end of Omnitopia is a little unrealistic as well, but pleasantly so; it's refreshing to see a fictional company that's a legitimate "good guy."
What makes "Omnitopia" truly remarkable, however, is how little it feels like science fiction. It would be better to say that Omnitopia is more about a man struggling to keep his vision for his people and his creation in the face a world that isn't very receptive to idealism or positive intent. As Dev Logan says in the book, Omnitopia is about "hunting the things that have made humanity great in the past, and...the ones that will make it worth being human in the future." It's a testament to Duane's writing and characterization that such a line doesn't seem false or overstated, but a simple truth about what Dev Logan wants people to find in his virtual worlds.
In the end, "Omnitopia Dawn" is a great book, and great speculative fiction, not because it's flawless, but because of how well it rises above those flaws. It makes us want to believe that such a thing as Omnitopia might actually exist. It's a world that many readers might prefer to live in--one that might make us dare to dream, and dare to hope, much like Dev Logan would have us do. If that's not the mark of good speculative fiction, what is? Regardless, "Omnitopia Dawn" is a must-have book for all gamers, dreamers, and sci-fi lovers.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
When Diane Duane wrote this book, published in 2010, Second Life was still "a thing." It's evident that the seed of the novel's premise was, "What would happen if virtual worlds kept going indefinitely?" -- which today might sound a little dated. But it still works remarkably well, since so much of what the story is about -- a dot com gaming company in 2015, about to roll out a major new version, and the people involved in its success or failure -- could just as easily apply to Facebook, World of Warcraft, or Google or any other company with a visionary at the top. Lord knows I've encountered enough of those in my professional life.
The result is a deep, thoughtful, engaging story with *real SF* and *real computer science concepts*. Or at least the arm-wave at the science holds together and has been thought through. The characters are believable, the scenario plausible, and her presentation of what it's like to roll out a "cloud application" (a term she never uses, mind you) is pretty darned spot on.
Besides, Duane set the Omnitopia company in Tempe, right down the street from me. That made me say Aw[...]
It's not a perfect novel. I won't press it on everybody. There were points when the story sagged a bit, enough that I might subtract a single star. But I'd add at least half a star back again because I *really* like the characters. You won't find any "Insert Villain Here" characterizations; people do things for understandable reasons, even if those reasons are at odds.
This is billed as the beginning of a series, but I can't find an indication that book 2 ever came out. (Naturally I was about to order it.) You won't be left hanging, though; Omnitopia Dawn has a clear conclusion, though with a good hook for Duane to add more to the tale.
Also: You may know the author only from her (excellent) Young Adult fiction. This is clearly written for grownups, or at least bright teenagers. I don't think there's anything a parent would object to a child reading; it's just not written for a "kid" audience.
I really liked this book. I think you will, too.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
While I haven't read everything Duane has ever written, I've read most of her novels. Which should tell you that I really, really like her work.
The problem has always been that she starts a series and then leaves readers hanging. (Where's the final book in the Tale of the Five, Ms Duane? We've been waiting for "The Door Into Starlight" for over a decade now. And the third cat wizard novel?) The one exception to this is the Young Wizards series, which is now nine volumes. The last two show signs that Ms Duane had her mind partly on her many other projects: the plots are not as tight as earlier books in the series.
This is the first installment of another series. Unusually for Duane, it reads just like an opening novel in a series. Lots of exposition, lots of description, plot moves slowly. Thankfully it doesn't have a cliff-hanger ending: the particular threat that emerges in this book is fully resolved by the end of the novel.
The interesting idea for the setting: in the not-too-distant future, online gaming has reached a level of "reality" that allows your consciousness actually to inhabit your avatar when you're in the game. In a nice touch of realism, the better the tech you can afford the more fully you inhabit your avatar. If you spend enough, you'll even be able to taste the food you eat inside the game. But the tech is cheap enough for people with a moderate income to buy it. And some gamers even prefer onscreen action, rather than inhabiting their avatars.
In the online game that's the focus of the novel (as opposed to the online game owned and operated by the bad guy), really good players are offered an opportunity to build their own "microcosm"--a "world" in the game's "universe." They then receive a share of the profits whenever another player goes into their microcosm.
Yes, profits. Unusually for Duane, the main plot of this novel is concerned with industrial espionage. Will the good guy's company--and the online universe it hosts--survive a cyber-attack? Or will the good guy's rival (who's an old business partner) succeed in crashing the universe, obliterating the good guy's wealth and leaving his thousands of staff unemployed?
If you're a Duane reader, you should know that all the swords are virtual. Yes, there are "battle" scenes, but they all take place in one level or another of virtual reality. No wizardry except the cyber magic of being either in an awesome online game or inside the software code that controls the game's servers. On the other hand, you don't get very far into the book before you wish the online game it describes existed in our reality!
This is a fairly strong offering by a very good author. It's a departure from most of her other novels. The big worry is that Duane won't come out with another novel in this series anytime soon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Omnitopia Dawn is the start of a new series by Diane Duane, probably best known for her excellent Young Wizards fantasy series (highly recommended, btw). Young Wizards has always been a fantasy with some science-fiction underpinnings, and in Omnitopia Dawn Duane reverses that balance, giving us a near-future science fiction tale with some fantasy possibilities. It's mostly a fun read, though I don't think it matches, at least not yet, the quality and depth of Young Wizards.
The title comes from a massive multi-player game created and run by billionaire wunderkind Dev Logan and his Magnificent Seven inner circle, along with a cast of thousands of happy employees, many of the working in the company's campus where the boss lives in Castle Dev. Already the most popular such virtual reality game, the story opens three days before Omnitopia launches a huge expansion of its "macrocosms "(in-house designed world modules characters game in) and "microcosms (smaller such gaming worlds designed by lucky gameplayers chosen via being "knighted"). The grand opening is fraught with economic anxiety as well as the usual new product launch concerns about bugs, but even more nerve wracking is the expectation that hackers will try to take advantage of the free publicity and wage massive attacks on the system, either for simple monetary gain or to trumpet their ability to "take down" allegedly the world's greatest computer system. Also in the mix is Omnitopia's number one gaming competitor, a company led by Phil Sorenson, with whom Dev was once in partnership until it flamed out horribly. Unbeknownst to Dev, Sorenson is working via various legal and not-so-legal means to destroy Omnitopia, and he seemingly has the resources to make it happen.
That's the major plot in a nutshell, a relatively constrained and straightforward suspense plot as to whether the bad guy Sorenson will take down the good guy Dev. Also in the narrative mix is Rik--a young gamer who was just knighted and is trying to create his new microcosm from scratch, a disgruntled minimum-wage kind of employee who is part of the hacker attack on Omnitopia, and a Time Magazine reporter newly-arrived on Omnitopia's campus for a major story on Dev and eager to find some "dirt."
A minor problem is there actually isn't much dirt; Dev is as squeaky clean as his public image, which makes him easy to root to but also perhaps a bit too-good-to-be-true. Or perhaps more to the point, it isn't so much that Dev himself is like this but that seemingly the entire corporate structure of his company is, from Dev to his Magnificent Seven group of high execs to the lower employees. Meanwhile, Sorenson is painted a bit broadly as the economic villain, though there is a bit of complexity thrown in via his past relationship with Dev as former partners. The gamer developer just given the right to build his own microcosm also falls a bit into the amazingly good descriptor, as does his wife (although in Duane's defense on this one at least, he was chosen because of that "goodness" so it makes sense in the plot structure).
What this all mostly means is there isn't a lot of character growth or depth, one of the shining strengths of the Young Wizards series: characterizations here are much more static and much less nuanced. This includes the secondary characters as well, none of which come alive on the page really. On the other hand, as mentioned, it does make it easy to root for Dev and his loyal companions against his petty, greedy foes.
As with her fantasy series, Duane moves plot along speedily and mostly smoothly. There are a few info-dump moments and one or two scenes where interior monologue does a bit too much explaining, but we're talking a total of maybe 5-6 pages out of the entire novel. Mostly it zips along, changing point-of-view as we go and while the plot may be a bit more straightforward than it needed to be, without many unforeseen turns, it's mostly a lot of fun from start to end, especially the scenes in Omnitopia itself, which is rich with potential (along with the new hollow-world microcosm we see Rik develop we get to pop into or hear about a slew of tantalizing alternate history, sci-fi, or fantasy worlds) for future books. And while Omnitopia Dawn stands on its own just fine, resolving all the major plot issues, its ending broadens the universe outward, allowing for a wholly new storyline to develop in future books. While I wish the characters were more subtly and fully developed, and the plot a bit less straight and predictable, having seen what Duane can do with both those elements, Omnitopia Dawn was an enjoyable enough start to draw me back in for its sequel.
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 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.
NOTE: review book provided by publisher
on January 26, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Written a year ago for my blog:
I've been a fan of Diane Duane for years. I started reading her Star Trek novels 25 years ago, when I was a teenager, and her Young Wizards (and companion) series a little later. These in my opinion are possibly among the best examples of books that can be read by children (and are usually housed in the Young Adult or Teen sections of the bookstore along with a lot of other good fantasy, but I digress), but hold the interest of adult readers as well. Diane Duane is the best author at writing non-human intelligences (except maybe Neil Gaiman) I've read. Her non-human characters don't think like us, but are still intelligible enough for the reader to follow. This is a rare skill in an author, and one I try to emulate in my own creative attempts.
I received A Wizard of Mars, the ninth book in the series, as a Christmas gift and re-read the whole series. And loved them again. These books are always on my re-read shelf, but not so repetitive as to be on my comfort-food-of-literature shelf. So there I was, having completed all nine books of the Young Wizards again, and wanting something new to read by the same author, and I looked her up on amazon.com. Glory be, there's a new series, the first of which is already out in mass market paperback. Sign me up!
I got it in four days. I read it in two. I love it. No spoilers aside from the book cover info, but suffice it to say that it contains a number of things I love. There are sympathetic (and not-so-sympathetic) well-written characters. There's a HUGE online game (the titular Omnitopia). There are in-universe acronyms and abbreviations (such as 'cosm) that make sense through context (which just proves what a good writer she is - that's not easy without it sounding clunky). There are interpersonal relationships and corporate intrigue. And a surprise toward the end (I'm pretty genre-savvy, so I saw it coming. But it didn't spoil the story for me at all, because it was handled with Duane's usual sensitivity).
Now how in the 'cosm am I going to be able to wait for Book Two?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2010
Omnitopia Dawn (2010) is the first SF novel in the Omnitopia series. It is set in the near future when online games have evolved into virtual environments with RealFeal interfaces. Omnitopia is the largest such environment, with one hundred and twenty-one Macrocosms and over eight hundred Microcosms, each containing a unique virtual world.
In this novel, Dev Logan is CEO and First Gamer of Omnitopia. He is married to Mirabel and they have one daughter, four year old Lola.
Jim Margoulies is CFO of Omnitopia. He is also a longstanding friend of Dev.
Tau Vitoria is chief server engineer of Omnitopia. He is a highly trusted associate.
Rik Maliani is a gamer in Omnitopia playing a medimage in the game. He is married to Angela and they have two boys. Rik wears a brown uniform and works for a package delivery service.
Delia Harrington is a freelance writer. She has an appointment at Omnitopia for Time magazine article on Dev and the company.
Phil Sorensen is CEO of Infinity Inc and a former associate of Dev. When Phil hadn't taken their advise and the business fell apart, Dev and his friends started their own company. Phil is still expecting Dev to apologetically come back and admit that he was wrong.
In this story, Omnitopia is close to implementing a major upgrade of their game servers. They have acquired some new highspeed memory that should allow them to serve many more gamers. But they are also expecting major attacks on their facilities before or during switch over.
Dev is up to his eyeballs in work. His workers have secretly switched over the software to the new servers, but the new memory is not fully activated. There are still some major problems on the bug sheet, including an intermittent problem in the Conscientious Objector code.
Only Dev and Tau are allowed to work on the CO module, so getting time to debug the code is cramping their schedules. They both make a pass through the code and notices errors flicker up and then vanish. Dev tries again later and still doesn't have any luck in resolving the problem.
Delia takes up time for both Dev and Tau. She has a problem with big corporations and is looking for dirt. The loose culture at Omnitopia only arouses her suspicions.
Mirabel is working hard on getting Dev to eat during the switch over preparations. She has spread the word around and every one Dev meets reminds him to eat something. Lola even buys him some ice cream with her own money.
Meanwhile, Rik is running errands in Omnitopia city. He is supposed to pick up some robes and then meet some friends. He steps into portal in the Ring of Elich and finds himself in an empty Microcosm. Then he learns that he has been chosen by Omnitopia to develop his own virtual world.
This tale presents Dev with a crisis larger than anything he has ever faced before. He is also presented with a personal challenge of major consequence. All in the three days before switch over.
Apparently the author queried programmers and hardware engineers about their ideas of a perfect software company. Omnitopia seems like an ideal workplace. But this wish fulfillment fantasy is rarely found in the real world.
Naturally Dev and his corporation survive the attacks. Yet many loose threads are left dangling for the next volume to address. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
on December 25, 2010
To me, this book read like the opening to a larger plot, not so much a plot by itself. Maybe I need a second read, but the climax didn't build in a way that said, "Here, this is what the book is about!".
That said, I love Diane Duane, and have read her since Door into Fire. I loved the ways this book mirrored her other books. The computer language was 'built' in the same way the sorcery of the Door series was, in nearly identical descriptions; the final virtual battle scenes and the surprise presence at the end were very reminiscent of "The Wounded Sky". Not that I mind. Seeing familiar themes in new places was like seeing an old friend at a brand new restaurant.
Can't wait for the next one!
on September 11, 2013
Diane Duane can pull you into a story with the first page. Every time. Her writing is crisp, her characters are real, and her pacing is superb.
Omnitopia is a well thought out virtual game world. The people who populate it as players ring true. The people who work on it ring true as well. The descriptions of rollout frenzy are scarily accurate.
I enjoyed so many aspects of this book: the plot, the characters, the gaming, the hackers, the twists and turns.
An excellent read! Highly recommended.
I truly hope there is eventually a sequel.