The Leveller by Julia Durango

the leveller

4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work

Think bounty hunter meets holodeck for this one. Virtual reality is now more than just a possibility and it is proving addictive. People log into MEEP for hours on end, and often refuse to come out. Nixy makes some extra cash by finding people’s children and forcing them to disconnect. Her clients are mostly parents in her small town, but when the son of the owner of MEEP leaves a suicide note and hides in the simulation, Nixy is contracted to go in after him. Unlike her other targets, Wyn has hidden himself behind a complicated and deadly maze. Since he has access to levels of MEEP technology most people don’t, this presents a serious challenge. She gets to the end only to discover Wyn isn’t hiding, he is unable to leave. While his virtual reality world is a tropical paradise populated by historical figures, gorgeous MEEPles, and a friendly kracken, a prison is still a prison. And now, she is trapped too. As time runs down for both Nixy’s and Wyn’s physical bodies outside, they must figure out how escape from paradise.

The writing is very action-oriented and sometimes tries a little too hard to shove blockbuster-worthy quips into the internal dialogue, but I still really enjoyed this. Nixy’s adventures through the maze have a real dystopian element to them that really makes me think of “Hunger Games” and others of that ilk. The virtual reality element really brings me back to my Trekkie phase when I spent a LOT of time wondering exactly what I would do with a holodeck of my own (probably the library from “Beauty and the Beast”). They even touch a little on some of the ethical concern of virtual reality that ties tightly into the brain, both pro and con. On the plus side, physically disabled people could experience a version of reality where they are not constrained by body parts that do not work. The lame could potentially walk and the blind could potentially see. On the downside, playing with brains is complicated, and tricking someone’s mind into seeing, hearing and touching things that are not real could potentially be damaging, or at least insanely addictive. These types of issues are why I love science fiction though. We get to speculate about the moral ramifications of stuff that has not even happened yet.

The part of the book that really rang false was how quickly Nixy and Wyn fall for each other, but that is a complaint I have with most YA literature. I am about a decade off from my teens, but even at the time I do not think I could go from meeting a guy to making out in a life-threatening situation in a couple of days. I just don’t buy it as realistic behaviour. It is a problem that plagues YA lit, but still bothers me. Please YA authors, tell stories with more realistic romances. I beg of you.

This book is fast-paced action and science fiction speculation. A great mix for a book that was hard to put down.

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