A Toxic Ambition

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
388 Pages
Reviewed on 12/07/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

A Toxic Ambition by Erik A. Otto is a dystopian science fiction novel that takes place in the bleak landscape of San Francisco. As a result of a radioactive event that resulted in a harsh, toxic environment, the sharp divide between the well-off and the less privileged has become even more pronounced. The elite has managed to sustain themselves by living within the secured enclosure of the domed Inworld, while the poor Outworlders are marginalized, and their lives are bound by the dictates of the wealthy. The only way to escape from this vicious system is for the Outworlders to participate in the deadly game of Ket, where participants are divided into two teams that must eliminate each other. With the use of Ket energy for pulse weapons, shielding, and anti-gravity assistance, the strategies are often complex. At the center of this inhumane dystopia are three young Outworlders. Tristan, Luisa, and Michaelis are struggling with their own bitter truths and will risk their lives to overcome the oppressive system.

If there is anything that Tristan, Luisa, and Michaelis have in common is that desperation serves as their motivation, and it heightens the story’s tension as you read along. A Toxic Ambition has taut pacing, and the motivations of the characters are well explored. Erik A. Otto’s Ket game scenes are teeming with pulse-pounding details so that you feel transported into the sidelines as a spectator, and you might even find yourself enjoying the blizzard strategy. The Ket games will strike you as a mix of Quidditch, Hunger Games, and Running Man, and complemented by its intriguing narrative, it will not disappoint fans of dystopian fiction.

Foluso Falaye

Tristan wants nothing more than to win the Ket games and make it to the Inworld, where the wealthy rule and are protected from the toxic environment of San Francisco by a dome. Luisa, also a gamer, has other plans that involve a rebellion as the Outworld, where they live, is being used to make the Inworld a better place at a heavy cost to the Outworlders. While risking lifelong imprisonment and the caretaker death squad, a group formulates plans to make things better for the Outworlders. But first, the group must recruit others like the promising gamer, Tristan, and any other trustworthy person. Will Luisa and Tristan achieve their goals separately or together? Erik A. Otto presents A Toxic Ambition, a book that will shake the young adult sci-fi world.

You know when you read a story and the mood you get from it lingers long after reading and you wonder why you feel different? I felt just like that after reading A Toxic Ambition as the dystopian setting and the plights of the characters projected a fearful and perilous mood that made me appreciate how our world is not as bad as the one portrayed in the book. The futuristic world depicted by Erik A. Otto is well-developed and graphically portrayed, with distinctive and realistic characters and fun inclusions: the anti-gravity games and the futuristic robots. To sum up, A Toxic Ambition is a profound, touching, and heart-racing story that young adult sci-fi fans would enjoy. I am glad to have discovered this fantastic book by Erik A. Otto.

Romuald Dzemo

A Toxic Ambition by Erik A. Otto is gripping science fiction with a fascinating dystopian setting, featuring class conflict that will appeal to fans of Hunger Games. The setting is in San Francisco and in the future, a time when Earth is suffering from pollution and a climate crisis that makes it more and more inhospitable. A select few live away from the danger posed by climate change, isolated in towering domes known as the Inworld. These dominate the skyline and are impenetrable. The rest of the population occupies the harsh environment of the Outworld, prone to disease and scarcity. Those who live in the Outworld can gain access to the Inworld only by winning in the Ket— an antigravity game that is as challenging as it is deadly. Tristan is poised to be the San Francisco Champion and he has toiled so hard for it. Luisa and Michaelis are his companions in the game. With a deadly rival in the game and insurmountable obstacles, can Tristan and his companions find the path to Inworld?

Erik A. Otto is a great storyteller who has crafted a tale laced with tension and a riveting plot. The strength of the novel is in its setting that gives the reader a solid image of a fragmented world, where the few live comfortably off while many suffer in extreme conditions. It is a story of what happens when the slave picks their weapon against the master. It is a tale of revolt and the characters are driven and rock-solid. The author does a great job of writing motivation for these characters. For instance, Luisa has a painful past, and thoughts of her family assail her. The writing is gorgeous, and the narrative is embellished by the observant style, hugely descriptive, and laced with powerful imagery. I enjoyed the alternating points of view in A Toxic Ambition, the conflict that builds up steadily towards an explosive denouement, and the deft handling of the plot.