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Book Review: Unholy Domain by Dan Ronco

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Daring, innovative, and predictive of ethical quandaries yet to arrive, Unholy Domain is a novel to be reckoned with. Author Dan Ronco utilizes his vast understanding of engineering and technology to give us a vision of the future well within the realm of possibility. This could be one of those rare occasions when we as a people could learn the lessons for mistakes we have yet to make. The drama that defines these lessons is not bad either.

Unholy Domain sets the stage for a future where the internet has been integrated into nearly every business, streetlight and punch clock. A collection of scientists have gathered to create an organization known as the Domain. Their purpose is to allow Artificial intelligence to reach the point where it can assume human traits and be used to enhance physical beings. This bold approach produces a counterculture movement driven by a militant religious sect known as the Army of God. A subversive war rages between these factions worsening the already diminished strength of the world economy. Inevitably, David Brown finds himself in the center of it all.

It is one thing to be the man who almost destroyed society but it is quite another to be his son. David grew up under the dark shadow of his father’s horrific misdeeds. His father, Raymond, had a brilliant mind for computers that somehow got out of control when he launched a virus that delivered chaos amongst the masses. Young David has the same gifts as his father and was always a little skeptical of the official story of his Dad’s guilt and subsequent death. After receiving a time lapse e-mail insistent upon his innocence David sets off on a journey back into the blackened hallways of his father’s past.

Here we are given a world where techology rules not only the economic stability but also the sustainability of humanity. It is in this vortex where ethical walls are breached. Should so much power ever be controlled by the specific knowledge of so few? How can a society be maintained if it is constantly split between those who can afford the ultimate software and those who cannot?

I found myself captivated by the fast-paced action and multiple storylines. As the dueling ideologies espouse their vision, I was struck by the persuasivness of their arguments. Often I wasn't sure who to root for. Each side contains well rounded characters driven by both personal ambition and organizational responsibility. A tug of will between any two produces an explosion of emotional conflict and each of these battles edges their convictions closer to the apex of the government's power center. The author presses forth with curvy heroines and breakneck urgency until a rather abrupt ending stops the reader and forces them into waiting for the next book. While the ending could be considered a cruel teaser, it’s still very easy to fall into fandom over this type of writing.

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