Omnitopia Dawn

Omnitopia Dawn (Omnitopia, #1)Omnitopia Dawn by Diane Duane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was certainly a story! I’m not really sure what to say about it.

The book is about a MMORPG that is on a level past what we see today. People actually log into it as a virtual reality, and within the world there are little sub worlds of different themes and game types. In many ways it’s like the internet itself with various web pages, except the pages are worlds where people take on roles. Most of the ones described are your typical fantasy tropes with orcs and elves and swords, but it passes through historical scenarios and even one called “Million Monkeys” which is entirely text based, where people are attempting to improve on Shakespeare.

The story spends less time talking about the game worlds and more time talking about *creating* the game worlds. Someone who has no interest in MMO style games and no understanding or interest in computer programming will probably not enjoy this book. Someone who knows a LOT about computer programming might find it annoying, because it uses a made-up futuristic language which falls into a lot of “ooooooh it’s the fuuuutttuuurrreee” traps and does a lot of unlikely things that a pedant will be annoyed by, like having a glowing sword that physically leads your programmer to any potential bugs in the system (which would be frikkin cool, but I’d like to see how that would work…). It also attempts to portray hacking attempts as in-game battles which really didn’t work for me, but at least the battles were interestingly portrayed, if a little far-fetched. If you are someone who likes MMO style games and either have enough knowledge of the workings of programming, or at least the ability to enjoy sci-fi movies where you don’t think too hard about how things were accomplished, you will probably really enjoy this book.

I found the writing style to be very vivid, to the degree that I could easily imagine this being a very good movie. The special effects paint themselves out for you. I also appreciated that the book knew when not to take itself too seriously, while never becoming too silly. There is some quality writing skill on display in this book.

I do have some writing critiques, though:

The story itself is quite slow to get going, and in the end it leaves you wondering how much else could have been included if it had been properly paced. It felt like the author was so excited to describe the world to you that they forgot to get the plot rolling until halfway through, and then they didn’t have a whole lot of time left. Fortunately, everything is described really well, so I really only noticed it when I thought about it too hard. Still, it could have been improved. As it is, it’s almost as if the plot is the fact that the game world exists, and then it goes “Oh and uh, then they fight.” The fight is set up throughout the book, but it feels a little shallow.

There also seemed to be a lot of exposition on things that didn’t really matter in the end. We spend a lot of time with Rik and his microcosm, and it was really cool to see how the worlds are built, and the subplot with his wife coming around and becoming involved was all cool… but what was the point?

[Spoiler]

His world crashes because of the bug with the CO

[/spoiler]

[His world crashes because of the bug with the CO (hide spoiler)] … sooo was the the entire reason for this character? Because nothing else really important happened, there…
And then the bit at the start with the statue honouring the character/player who discovered how to travel to other worlds. That left me a little confused because it seemed like it was introducing something really important that would be vital to the story. Does it mean the world is actually linking to something outside of code??? Are there other gateways that will be discovered??? Are they going to discover it in this book??? …nope, we’re just never going to mention it again. So, was the gate placed there by the programmers as an in-game event and that character was just the first lucky one to discover it, or… I feel like I’m missing something and I’m not sure that it’s entirely my fault.

Chekov’s gun: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the second act you should fire it. Otherwise, don’t put it there.”
This book is a veritable armory of Chekov’s guns that are never fired and have no immediate purpose. Since this is a series, perhaps they will be important later… but I feel like I spent a lot of time reading about things that ultimately didn’t matter, which makes me feel like I wasted time trying to get to the plot. Books should not leave their readers feeling like they wasted time :/

Secondly, the characters are entirely too black and white. The worldbuilding is amazing, but the character development borders on cartoonish. The good guy is sooooooo good and everyone loves him and he is so humble and caring and gosh isn’t he great? And the bad guy is sooooo bad that he is just a bastion of evilness and bitterness and spite and you half expect the next scene to be him in a big chair stroking his fluffy white cat. There is no human motivation behind either of these characters, and it leaves them feeling artificial. The best characters are shades of grey. Their motivations are clear and relate-able, even if you don’t agree with them. The good guy here is a CEO who apparently has such pure and altruistic motivations for his company that he has managed to create a blockbuster company and become the seventh richest man in the world without ever having a selfish thought for himself or his profit margins. Everyone loves him unconditionally (except the bad guys of course. But they’re just jealous…) Humans do not work this way. It just usually doesn’t happen. Companies who are entirely too altruistic go broke because they don’t plan things properly, but this guy just doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes. Even when he fucks up, it all works out in the end. When he farts, it smells like roses, and everyone thinks it’s hilarious. Meanwhile, bad CEO is so consumed by thoughts of revenge that he’s willing to put his entire (currently successful, just not *as* successful…) company on the line just to get back at good CEO. Bad CEO’s company probably wouldn’t be as successful as it is with such single-minded logic behind it. I feel like it all should have been fleshed out just a little bit more…

Not that I didn’t enjoy the characters, I just feel that giving them more human motivations would deepen the story without losing anything. It felt like biased character development, where it was too risky to give the characters flaws or sympathetic points, lest we didn’t view them in the intended way. But the result is somewhat artificial…

Those points aside, I really enjoyed this book. The story was unique in that I haven’t read a whole lot of books about MMOs like this (maybe they exist and I’ve just missed them somehow, but I found it refreshingly unique anyway), but the ending was fairly predictable too (especially since the characters pretty much *can’t* deviate from their stereotypes). It didn’t stop me from blowing through it in two days. You know it’s a good book when you get on your exercise bike and then notice an hour and a half later that your butt went numb.

View all my reviews

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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