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Unholy Domain by Dan Ronco
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Apr 25, 2008

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Dan Ronco's "Unholy Domain" is the sequel to "Peacemaker", although for some reason publishers Kunati Inc. didn't think this worth putting on the cover. I wasn't aware it was a sequel while reading, but it might have been useful to know, as it explains why so much of the book is taken up with references to obscure events. So I pass this on to anyone who's considering this book--consider reading "Peacemaker" first!

In this post-PeaceMaker world, humanity is divided between those who consider technology to be the tool of the devil, and those who still think it has a useful role to play in our lives. The battle between these two camps is fought with deadly force. Meanwhile, David Brown, son of the man blamed for unleashing the PeaceMaker computer virus on the world, is struggling to clear his dead father's name. But both sides in the conflict have their own reasons for keeping the truth from becoming known.

There are some great moments in the book--like when David has to buy back his own car, with the 'help' of an accomplice of the thief in bargaining down the price. There are some nice twists, and the book does a good job of keeping the reader guessing about who can be trusted and who can't. It's not as fast-paced as perhaps a techno-thriller ought to be, though. It throws the reader into the action immediately, but there's a lot of faddling around before it gets to the final conflict. At least there are some surprises when we get there.

Inevitably, perhaps, the technology takes precedence, knocking characterisation into second place. The narrative tries to differentiate the characters, but they have a bad habit of turning into representations of their side of the argument, rather than into people. More show and less tell overall, but particularly with regard to David, might have drawn the reader in and made for a more exciting read.

Each chapter starts with a quote--some from the past or present, and some from the future--and collectively they illustrate the thinking behind this book. It's a great way to get the reader thinking before plunging them into the next phase of the narrative. It's clear that a lot of thought and care has gone into crafting this novel, and the ruminations on what our technological future will be are the most interesting aspect.

Thought-provoking, even if it doesn't quite live up to the blurbs on the back cover.
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