Book Review: Dominatus by D.W. Ulsterman

For some reason my review of Roosh's book proved incredibly interesting, so much so that over a thousand people bombarded this place in the space of 24 hours. Don't ask me why, I just write this stuff. Anyway, being the incorrigible bookworm that I am, I haven't exactly been idle when it comes to reading the works of others.

I'm a big fan of great dystopian literature- classic stuff like 1984, Farenheit 451, Brave New World  and a criminally underrated classic by Yevgeni Zamyatin called We are all part of my list of must-read books for anyone who is looking for a warning about where society is going and how to avoid the destruction of everything we hold dear. So when I see someone making a fair go at trying to adapt and adopt the same methods and ideas to a modern context, I'm generally more than willing to give his efforts my attentions. It didn't hurt that this book has a long list of 5-star reviews over at the Amazon Kindle store.

D.W. Ulsterman has attempted to portray a very bleak future in Dominatus. It pulls no punches about its subject matter. It is set in a world in which Barack Obarmy has gone from being (possibly the worst ever) President of the United States to the Benevolent Government Overlord (more or less) of something called the New United Nations. The world outlined in Dominatus is depressing in the extreme. The United States of America as we know it is gone. Every single Constitutional freedom has been eroded, destroyed, and discarded. Only one small bastion of freedom remains, deep in the Alaskan wilderness- a tiny community of just 100 people called Dominatus, a town in which men are free to live as they please, funded by a frail but very wealthy man who saw the way things were going in this country and chose to act to preserve the freedoms that he loved.

It all sounds like a fantastic setting for a really great, dark futuristic novel that pits the forces of government evil against a brave band of freedom fighters who just want to be left in peace. Sort of like The Empire Strikes Back, only without the 30-foot-tall mechanised walkers. Or Chewbacca. Or Billy Dee Williams- oh, wait, there's someone like that in the book, so never mind.

It is a truly terrible shame, then, that this book is such a dog's breakfast.

Ulsterman breaks the very first rule of good fiction writing almost immediately- show, don't tell. This book has all the subtlety of a clown fight, all the finesse of a Thunder Hammer, all the unpredictability of a drive down Route 50, and is only slightly more readable than A SENTENCE WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS. (Or the final third of Atlas Shrugged, which if you think about it basically amounts to the same thing.) It's such a crying shame, because this book had real potential, but the author completely pissed it away through one-dimensional characters, mediocre writing, an utterly predictable plot, and... an... incredibly... irritating... insistence... on... using.. ellipsis... almost... every... other... word.

I'm not making up that last part, by the way. That is literally how every single line of dialogue in the entire book reads. Authors who write good dialogue understand intuitively that you must never make the written word resemble the spoken word in terms of the pauses, awkward breaks, silences, and spaces by making things explicit in your sentence construction. Instead, you let the reader's own mind do it for you. Let me put it this way: have you ever been unable to put down a court transcript? Have you ever actually read one, for that matter? Reading Dominatus is very much like reading a court transcript- the infuriating insistence on using ellipsis every other damn word makes supposedly "natural" dialogue less natural, not more. It stops me from imagining the characters as real people by making me see dots crawling all over the bloody page like ants around a lump of sugar.

Back to the actual content of this book. The novel is narrated by a guy whose father helped out one of the protagonists of the novel a while back and is visiting the town of Dominatus in Alaska to fulfil a promise he made to his dying father, who passed away under very suspicious circumstances. We only learn much later exactly why he is there- the narrator runs his own short-wave radio show dedicated to exposing the corruption and tyranny of the Brave New World Order that rules America under the iron fist of the New United Nations and its Secretary General, Obama. In Dominatus, the narrator meets Alexander Meyer, the Jewish former billionaire philanthropist who saw where things were going in America and decided to do something about it by creating a haven for free men and women. (So he's basically George Soros in reverse. Yeah, didn't see that one coming, at all...) He meets a former Special Forces operative named Mac, and various other people at Dominatus who tell him their stories about why they left the mainland behind and travelled deep into the Alaskan wilderness to escape tyranny.

He also meets Alexander Meyer's granddaughter, Dublin, and this is really where my second major problem with this book starts. It's completely predictable. I literally knew the moment that the granddaughter walked in that the narrator and Dublin would end up getting all starry-eyed with each other. The characters are about as multi-dimensional as those found in Atlas Shrugged- seriously, it's that bad. The most fleshed-out character is a actually a chap named Bear, who basically fulfils the Strong Silent Type role in this book but is otherwise completely incidental to the plot and does exactly nothing other than glower and beat the crap out of people during his time in the book.

The one-dimensional characters are worst when it comes to the baddies in this book. The main antagonist is some goon named August Hess- and the moment you read the name, you know that the author is going to pull the EEEEEEEVIL NAZI HENCHMAN card on you. Which, of course, is precisely what he does. August Hess isn't a real character, he's a cartoon, an over-amped frat boy with a trigger finger (on an electric stun gun, not a real pistol, which only serves to make him even less believable). There is a point later in the book where he executes an innocent woman with an ice pick through her ear in front of her daughter. Instead of being horrified and repulsed by that scene, which is what I should have been, I found myself thinking, "damn, that must have hurt a bit". That should give you some idea of just how poorly written these characters are- you don't really care about any of them. Even when Hess gets what is coming to him, in brutal and bloody fashion (through the kneecaps too, which is a horrifically painful place to get shot), I couldn't find any good reason to be happy about it. I was, at best, indifferent, because I had endured a whole book's worth of cartoonish Nazi stereotypes and I just couldn't be bothered any more. The truly terrifying, calculating evil of Josef Mengele from Boys from Brazil is nowhere to be found here at all.

As for the plot of the book, well, all I can say is that it was only slightly better than the atrocities committed against literature by writers like Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert with their monumentally terrible sequels to the classic Dune series. If you've read Hunters of Dune, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Basically the good guys win in the end. Sort of. Because people decide to stand up to evil. Or something. Due to a massive case of deus ex machina, essentially. I'm not going to give away the ending, though I'm actually doing the book far more kindness than it deserves in the process, but let's just say that you'll see it coming a mile away.

In conclusion, this book was a great idea which was completely botched and butchered in its execution. There are far better ways to spend your time and money. I would simply recommend avoiding this book and its extremely irritating crimes against good punctuation, good storytelling, good characterisation, and good pacing, and recommend reading a really worthwhile post-apocalyptic novel like World War Z instead.

Verdict: 2/5. The author took a potentially great idea and made a complete and utter hash of it. There are better books out there far more worthy of your time and money.

Comments

  1. I got the book for my kindle on sale for $0.99. So, it was worth that. I have had to re read a few lines due to grammer but, over all...lol....being the first book of this kind I have read. I fpund it to be ok, pretty good. I like how it has what is going on now to the future. It does make you think and is a pretty fast read.

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    1. It's definitely a fast read; I just wish it wasn't so predictable, so poorly written, and so badly edited. Put it this way- there are better books of this type out there. John Ringo's The Last Centurion comes to mind, it's written in a very rambling, "blog-style" sort of prose but it's one hell of a good read.

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