Reviewed by: E
TRIGGER WARNING: Flashbacks to sexual abuse of a minor and depictions of torture
Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier. A nobody. Level 2 trash in a multi-level city that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border, where corporations make all the rules. A runaway since the age of 14, Kris struggled to set up her life, barely scraping by, working hard to make it without anyone’s help. Witnessing the murder of one of her clients changes everything. Now she’s stuck with a mysterious package that everyone seems to want.
Now the corporations want Kris gone, and are willing to go to almost any length to make it happen. Hunted, scared, and alone, she retreats to the only place she knows she can hide: the Level 1 streets. Running from people that seem to know her every move, she is rescued by Miller—a member of an underground resistance group—only to be pulled deeper into a world she doesn’t understand. They work together to stay ahead of the corporate killers, until Miller falls into their hands. Kris realizes being alone isn’t the answer, and she’s willing to do anything to get him back.
This blurb came from Goodreads
Apparently I have a weakness for book blurbs which mention the heroine happens to be a messenger. I seem to have an even bigger weakness when they have what could be considered a contested delivery package. Maybe it is something about messengers needing to be strong, street smart, and self-reliant. Maybe it is how a package they don’t know the contents of and never open completely changes their life. Whatever the reason is that little information on a blurb will have me trying a new author quicker then a lot of other things. Once again this tendency seems to have led me to an author I intend to read again.
Kris lived almost hand to mouth with just enough left over to keep her bike in working order. Despite all of her hard work and struggles to reach this point of independence, she wouldn’t have changed her decision to run away. She had a stable job and a safe place to live, along with some friends who helped her succeed in her independence. Then she received an unusual delivery and stumbled on her client and his murderer, who promptly came after her. I really liked her determination and how she was able to think on her feet. I also liked her loyalty to her company, the delivery, and those who befriended her. She wasn’t a perfect person with all the answers and I thought her flaws made her a much more relatable sympathetic character. It also made it easier to go along with her decisions and understand the logic behind her actions.
Miller on the other hand seemed rather flat. I understood why Kris found herself attracted to him under the stress of trying to survive but I thought he needed fleshing out to make the thread of romance believable. As a result, I mostly enjoyed the characters and their ambiguity in exactly what roles they were playing. Occasionally I wished their relationships to others were explained a bit more because at times I found it difficult to follow where their allegiance fell. In some cases, it seemed deliberate but others appeared to be an oversight as the cast grew to a large number. Aside from that I continued to find The Courier intriguing and thought the complex moral framework of several characters a nice touch.
I really found Brandt’s world fascinating. The thought that the area I grew up in was simply part of a huge multi-leveled city run by rival corporations. The distinctions between levels covered the range of human senses and really made the world seem vivid. The ruthlessness of the corporations looking for the next best thing to exploit and gain territory was impressive. They weren’t too picky about the legality of their actions so they spent a significant amount of effort protecting against espionage while trying to exploit any piece of information on their competition. As I discovered, the corporations had internal factions and not everyone was a fan of a world controlled by big business.
I wasn’t quite expecting everything The Courier delivered and I enjoyed the journey of discovering how Kris was going to deal with her unexpected life changes. I thought she made a good team with Miller, even if they both had almost too much of a sacrifice self for select others syndrome. They were able to successfully, still be among the living, deal with this particular threat from the corporations but I really had the feeling this was just the opening rounds. I am looking forward to seeing how Kris has matured and what her relationship with Miller turns into as this series continues.
I give The Courier a B/B-