Thursday, January 8, 2009

"The Unholy Domain" by Dan Ronco

Title: "The Unholy Domain"
Author: Dan Ronco
Series: Brown Trilogy, Book Two
Pages: 352
Publisher: Kunati Inc.

Author Information: “I was sitting in my office at Microsoft, frustrated by a couple of emerging problems: the increasing number of virus attacks on my client’s systems and the ongoing litigation with the DOJ. The more I thought about these problems, the more frustrated I became. I was General Manager for consulting in the East Coast, having joined Microsoft after years of leading information technology consulting practices for other hi-tech firms. Suddenly the obvious solution hit me – get out of this business and write a novel.”

Set in the year 2022, Ronco's techno-thriller continues the premise established in his first book, PeaceMaker. In 2012, the PeaceMaker virus, supposedly designed by madman software expert Ray Brown, shut down the Internet, resulting in worldwide devastation. Since this cataclysm, the government has curtailed new technology. Those who would see the government limitations overturned are known as Technos; opposing them is a group of dangerous religious extremists, the Church of Natural Humans. Several events have brought these two warring factions head-to-head: the creators of illegal technology, the Domain, has decided to take over the government, and Ray Brown's son, David, has undertaken an investigation in an attempt to clear his father's name.

Classification & Literary Class: Labeled as sci-fi thriller “Unholy Domain” throws David Brown in the middle of a power struggle between two dangerous forces in the future world. Expectancy level is high, you expect a fast paced chilling race for survival and uncovering the biggest conspiracy of the modern world, which has marked you as the son of the worst man alive. However the drum roll should be changed to a funeral march, since it failed to deliver what the premise promised.

Dan Ronco presents his story as a paper version of a Blockbuster thriller movie with all the secondary characters, playing a role that ties them to a bigger picture. I understand the motivation behind that decision, but does it help the novel overall to be the fast paced gripping work. No it doesn’t. sure having every other person be either connected with the bad guys or hiding information to stay alive has a certain charm as to show that nothing in this life can remain unconnected to a bigger picture. But it didn’t work for me.

For one thing “Unholy Domain” has strong coming-of-age elements. David Brown sets in the big bad world to become in his own right and simply has to grow up from his leisurely life as a sheltered rich man. To fully witness such a metamorphosis the tools used are not proper. Another problem that takes away what “Unholy Domain” could have been is the prose itself. Although technically correct, Ronco’s style is nothing spectacular. In a thriller words have to have a special sort of power, to skirmish your nerves and excite you. Good prose is the back bone for stories that are supposed to have you in their grip as a reader and here the prose is easily forgettable, ordinary and offers no imagery or lines that can brand themselves in your memory. The natural highs and lows in terms of suspense are missing and for me as an individual read like a straight line from point A to point B.

Characters & Depth: Partly because the focus of the novel moved too frequently for my taste from head to head and the issue with the prose, the cast remained rather one dimensional for me. Sure, the idea behind each character sounds promising the delivery is nowhere to be found this leaving these characters with labels. I admit characters can be tricky. They have to sound and be three dimensional, real, living and extraordinary individuals. They have to grow and above all their feelings have to become our own. Having a larger cast makes this even harder to achieve and I can’t really blame Ronco for not succeeding.

For starters, the lead male, David Brown’s life, journey and metamorphosis should have been the biggest tear jerker in the whole book. He is a young man, who bears the sins of his father, can’t get rid of his presence and is hollow on the inside and wants inner peace. These personal issues alone or in a random combination exist in people and many, if not all readers should be able to relate to him. I certainly hope that they do relate, but I couldn’t, because David wasn’t present enough for me. I couldn’t trace his change and growth through the story and was left unsatisfied. This was the situation with the rest of the characters as well.

Nevertheless the lead antagonist Dianne Morgan became a personal favorite. Perhaps I have a thing for an always plotting resident bitches with no moral codex, but the cold constructed plans. My reason to like her as a character is that Dianne is the main mechanism behind the story. In geek terms she is the game master at a D&D gaming session and is motivated to whack everyone off the table. Such consistency and the ability to remain one step ahead of everyone else is quite interesting, plus she is also conflicted on her past and is shown as a more shades in grey villain.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
I liked “Unholy Domain” because it’s set not so far in the future and paints a pretty sinister outcome from our strive to evolve with technology. The world is already walking a very thin line after the industrial revolution and one small step astray can lead to poverty, black markets, armed resistance to the changes in government that aim to secure the reigning class and the rise of fanatics.

The more sci-fi elements such as the rise of sophisticated androids, chips that allow an imitation of telepathy and all the other small details also enrich the dark world with the posing threat of submitting entirely to technology. As a response to this drastic trend, the need of faith and restoring the past comes in the face of the Church of Natural Humans, which counteracts the Technos [as the technology developers are called]. We a modern witch hunt with explosives and laser guns, which even though is not my taste, I respect as an accomplishment. People in masses, stripped from any hope can be easily swayed into a sect and give their lives for the causes of one sole man. It’s disturbing and brought to the extreme.

The Verdict:
Truth be told, I am happy that Dan Ronco has been received positively around the virtual reality. It is a great thing that people find professional realization with a novel idea. For me “Unholy Domain” wasn’t an experience anywhere close to what reviews on the web are saying, more like a bore. Nevertheless the novel makes you think about certain topics that may become a reality quite soon and ask yourself the important questions about technology and how far should be let it in our lives.


Anonymous said...

Hi daydreamer,
Really liked your verdict on "Unholy Domain". I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but the review was insightful and fun to read.

Carole McDonnell said...

Wow, I like the way you set up this review. You pointed out what you liked and what you didn't like. And you gave good reasons for that. Great post. -C

Harry Markov said...

Dot: I am happy that potential readers are not put off from the review. Books are meant to be read and I think that this was just some stylistic thing that ruined it all for me.

Carole: As I say, weighing the good and the bad is the best way to review.

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