Omnitopia Dawn is the start of a new series by Diane Duane, who is probably best known for her excellent Young Wizards fantasy series. Young Wizards has always been a fantasy with some science-fiction underpinnings, but 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 so far matches the quality and depth of Young Wizards.
“Omnitopia Dawn” is a massive multi-player game created and run by billionaire wunderkind Dev Logan, his Magnificent Seven executives, and thousands of happy employees. Everyone works together contentedly in Castle Dev. It’s already the world’s most popular virtual reality game, and Omnitopia Dawn opens three days before Omnitopia launches a huge expansion of its “macrocosms” (in-house designed world modules for gaming) and “microcosms” (smaller gaming worlds designed by “knighted” gamers). The grand opening is fraught with economic anxiety as well as the usual new product launch concerns over bugs.
More concerning, hackers are expected to wage massive attacks on the system, either for monetary gain or to trumpet their ability to “take down” the world’s greatest computer system. Worse still, Dev’s spurned partner and number one competitor Phil Sorenson is pursuing both legal and not-so-legal means to destroy Omnitopia. Can bad guy Sorenson take down good guy Dev? Further complicating characters include a disgruntled employee turned hacker, recently knighted gamer Rik, and a young Time Magazine reporter looking to find dirt on Dev.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much dirt. Dev is as squeaky clean as his public image, which makes him easy to root for, but also a bit too-good-to-be-true. More to the point, it isn’t so much that Dev himself is pure, but that the entire company is, from Dev to his Magnificent Seven group of high execs to the lower employees. Sorenson is painted a bit broadly, his only complexity as villain stemming from his former partnership with Dev. Rik, who has just given the right to build his own microcosm, also falls into the amazingly good pit. In Duane’s defense, Rik is knighted because of his “goodness,” so the plot requires his unreal purity.
What this means is that there isn’t a lot of character growth or depth, which is one of the shining strengths of the Young Wizards series. None of the secondary characters come alive on the page either. On the other hand, it is easy to root for Dev and his loyal companions against his petty, greedy foes.
A few info-dumps and extended interior monologues aside, Duane’s plot zips along, changing point of view regularly. The scenes in Omnitopia itself are rich with potential and Rik’s hollow-world microcosm allows us to pop into a slew of tantalizing alternate history, science fiction and fantasy worlds. Though Omnitopia Dawn resolves all the major plot issues, it leaves room for a wholly new storyline to develop in future books. While the characters could be more developed and the plot a little more complex, Duane has used both elements well enough in Omnitopia Dawn to draw me back in for its sequel.