A new near-future technothriller from the author Kirkus Reviews describes as "one of the finest current writers of speculative fiction."
It's the first quarter of the twenty-first century, and "massively multiplayer" online games have been around for a couple of decades. In an increasingly wired and computer-friendly world they've become a form of entertainment so popular they're giving television and films a run for their money. And the most popular gaming universe of all is Omnitopia, created by genius programmer Dev Logan.
For millions of people around the world, Omnitopia is an obsession, a passionate pastime, almost a way of life. Omnitopia is a virtual place where dreams come true -- players can create their own universes within the game's structure, and participate in the profits if their piece of the universe is a hit. Fifty million players routinely play in Omnitopia, and at any given time, nearly a million of them are online, living in a world more real to them then their own.
Worldwide, Omnitopia is now as much a culture as a game. Participants can become involved in it in a hundred different ways. Some game as if their lives depended on it, spending thousands of hours or thousands of dollars, or both, on quests in search of "game glory" among their fellow players. Some game only to acquire sufficient in-game "value" to become entitled to become subcreators themselves, able to build new levels and start raking in the so-called "one percent of infinity" which is the leveler's share of the profits. Some people do nothing but design online weapons and other items for Omnitopia gamers, and sell them -- or act as brokers, buying and selling game artifacts to order. Some subcreators, "unreal estate" dealers, do the same kind of design and creation, but for tailored Microcosms or slices of them. Some players speculate in game "gold" on the success or popularity of Microcosms, rather than actually playing in them. And of course there are thieves and swindlers, cheaters who live to find the loophole in the game that will make them rich in the real world.
Now Dev and his people are preparing to roll out a major new expansion to the Omnitopia system. And even as players, staff, the media, and the heavy hitters on the world financial scene wait eagerly for this fast-approaching and momentous event, others are preparing to play a very different game: one meant to strike at the heart of Omnitopia and bring the entire system crashing down....
Publisher's Weekly says:
"Realistically weaving together video gaming and back-alley corporate intrigue, Duane (A Wizard of Mars) takes readers to the near future, where new technologies like RealFeel allow players to smell, touch, and taste their game worlds. Today's gamers will fantasize about playing Omnitopia, an all-immersive 3D massive multiplayer online game with 200 million players which spans thousands of Microcosms: first-person shooters, cooking competitions, historical recreations, and more. But behind the curtain are two rival companies with some slight resemblances to Apple and Microsoft: one headed by laid-back, jeans-wearing Dev Logan and the other by his former friend and partner, corporate maven Phil Sorensen, who plots to topple Dev's Omnitopia empire by any means necessary. Neatly set up for a sequel, this outstanding speculative novel is action-packed and fast-moving, and Duane's lavish, expansive world building already seems eerily prescient." (Starred review)