Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were suddenly cast into the vast wilderness all on your own?  No food, shelter or friends anywhere to be seen.  Could you survive in such a man versus nature scenario?  Do you possess the knowledge and skills which are needed to transform such a seemingly desolate area into an actual home?  Able to discern that the area may not be quite as bleak as it seems.  If this idea has piqued your interest, then hold on tight as Driven to the Hilt: The Deepest Cut by author D. G. Lamb will take you down this dystopian path.  However, this intriguing work of Science Fiction will also reveal that the harsh and dangerous conditions of the wilderness may very well pale in comparison to a far greater threat… that of man and “human civilization.”

Essentially, the story follows a young boy named Joshua.  After having lost his father to very “suspect” circumstances in which he was accused of traitorous activity, Joshua and his mother are forced to live in abject poverty.  Indeed, they are virtually cast aside by the unforgiving mining colony in which they live on the planet Cypress Grove.  Life soon goes from bad to worse for Joshua and after facing more tragedy he finds himself lost in the dreaded swamp which exists just outside the colony.  This is an area feared by all and contains numerous, deadly creatures which can make the stay of any unfortunate visitors very quick indeed!

Joshua must instantly learn how to survive and adapt in the wild conditions of the swamp.  Where one wrong decision or slight miscalculation can bring with it imminent demise.  However, when he finds a way out of the swamp and into the colony’s deadly underworld, eleven-year old Joshua finds out that nature is not the most dangerous entity around.  In fact, the evil and often unpredictable characteristics of the humans in this area are far more treacherous.  Joshua will have to use all his skill and wits if he is going to live to see another day.  Can a young boy possibly survive against what seem to be insurmountable odds?  Or is he soon to become another nameless victim claimed by the seedy underbelly of the colony?

There can be little doubt that the plot of this novel is absolutely gripping.  The theme of survival is supported by a story-line which is chocked full of action and adventure.  There are twists and turns around every corner.  Just when the reader thinks they know where this story is headed, it instead veers off in another direction entirely.  That is certainly one of the reasons I had such a difficult time putting this book down.  The urge to see what was coming next was overwhelming.  Also, the juxtaposition of survival in the wilderness, alongside that of “civilization”, was clever and downright fascinating.  For this reader, it almost got to the point where I saw the creatures of the swamp as Joshua’s allies in his struggle with the humans.  Pure engagement!

The characters in the novel also beautifully support the plot.  Joshua as the protagonist develops in great depth throughout the tale.  At times, the reader will completely forget that they are reading about an eleven-year old boy!  As the story progresses we see the inherent intelligence and cunning resourcefulness of Joshua.  In many ways he is able to shrewdly manipulate and outmaneuver the various antagonists he comes up against.  There are also a number of supporting characters in the book as well.  They all play their corresponding roles well and are developed in sufficient depth to make them believable and critical to the overall plot development.

I would be amiss if I was not to mention the excellent job that D.G. Lamb does in his depiction of the setting.  He has built a world in the future which consists of a concrete city on top of a rainforest called the swamp which is down below.  The reader soon finds out that life is much “murkier” up top!  Like all the main elements of this story, the setting plays a key role in supporting the overall theme of the novel.

I found this to be a very original novel which has a great flow to it.  The ample use of dialogue is another technique which makes the reader actually feel part of this story.  It is highly recommended for all readers as there is something in it for everyone.

5 out of 5 Machiavellian Stars for this one!