A group of friends struggle to incite a class war in this dystopian science fiction novel for young adults.
The earth is polluted to the edge of inhabitability 150 years in the future. Enormous, impenetrable domes dominate urban skylines, allowing a select few to live carefree inside what is known as the Inworld. Everyone else is damned to the Outworld, where they will surely die, at a young age, of an environmentally related disease. However, if an Outworlder wins the Fuse games (a sort of antigravity laser-taglike competition), they are recruited by the Caretakers (a brutally oppressive task force that polices the Outworld) and are granted entry to the Inworld. Our hero Tristan is on the verge of becoming San Francisco’s Fuse champion and spends the first part of the novel myopically dedicated to entering the Inworld. But, unbeknownst to him, forces are conspiring to keep Tristan from his goal. Like with 1984, The Hunger Games and countless others, social commentary and plot are intrinsically woven together in Otto’s tale. Through shifting points-of-view, the author uses his characters to provide a firsthand account of the disparity between the Inworld and Outworld. With his dreams of Inworld life crumbling, the harsh reality of Outworld life drives Tristan to an epiphany and he joins his friend Luisa as part of a tiny group of rebel Outworlders. Together, they search for a way to rouse the rest of their people from their complacent rut. Meanwhile, Tristan’s Fuse archrival Sonny is slowly becoming a megalomaniacal Caretaker. From here, the book becomes a propulsive procedural, running headfirst into scenes of tension-building action, driving the two worlds toward their inevitable climactic conflict. Unfortunately Otto’s focus on plot suffocates his characters, confining them to a one-dimensional limbo where they exist as vessels for plot development, interacting only for the purpose of strategizing their rebellion against the Inworld and to reinforce the book’s underlying social commentary.
A well-paced, deftly plotted science fiction tale that suffers from its undernourished characters.