"Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.
Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.
But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?
Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?
Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end."
Virtual reality. An interesting main character. A war in a (sort-of fake) world. S.J. Kincaid's Insignia is similar to The Leveller. I can't help but notice the many parallels between the two books. Both main characters are good at what they do. Tom and Nixy are excellent at tricking people. Tom is good at winning games. Nixy is more of a femme fatale, who is capable of being a retrieval specialist of virtual reality-addicted teeangers. They are intelligent. Nixy herself is willing to do whatever it takes to live another day while Tom would do whatever it takes to win a battle.
MEEP (the virtual reality) takes The Leveller's world by storm. Everyone loves a world where anything can happen. Boys can enact whatever sports fantasy they like. Girls can become anyone they ever want to be. Anything. Can. Happen. The world is absolutely engaging, and Julia Durango does a great job of expressing what is normally the impossible.
But there is also the physical world, the real world. Durango doesn't explain the actual world as well as MEEP, but there is great potential for more expansion and depth. I would love to know what Wyn's father does and how far his influence reaches. The villain of The Leveller does bring up many questions involving morals, and in a way, he is right. What of the politics in this book? What of the sci-fi elements? What of the possible mind control?
Nixy is up for a new challenge. For five thousand dollars (plus a five thousand dollar bonus if she gets Wyn back home in an hour), she will seek Wyn Salvador and drag him back home. But this job isn't all rainbows and sunshines. Once she reaches Wyn, she realizes that he is not suicidal at all. He is being held against his will. Dum, dum, dum...
The conflict is intensive, and even after Nixy gets to Wyn, the tension increases and the stakes rises with each passing chapter. I have to applaud Durango for not missing a step, plot-wise. She uses an addictive conflict, an awesome romance, and intriguing characters to push forward the story. Not for a moment has the book stalled.
The ending is one of the most strangest part of the book. Yes, it closes a lot of plots off. Yes, it leaves potential for a sequel. Yes, questions are answered. But there is this sort of uneasiness in the ending that doesn't belong to a standalone. (Plans for a sequel are apparently murky.)
Overall, The Leveller is a wildly enjoyable novel (and possible standalone). Best for fans of Kincaid's Insignia.
Rating: Four out of Five