Title: Nexis (Tricksters #1)
Author: A.L. Davroe
In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.
Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.
But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.
And it’s been waiting for Ella.
Let me start by saying that I’ve never hated a main character from the start as much as I hated Ellani Drexel. However, as you can tell by the overall rating I’ve given the book, I very much enjoyed disliking her and watching her grow into a likable character. On top of being able to produce strong feelings towards the characters, Nexis also creates the image of an amazing cyberpunk dystopia. This isn’t usually my genre, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I only got this book because the dome happens to share a name with my favorite band from back in the day, but I definitely don’t regret picking it up.
While I read the book, I couldn’t help but compare it to other dystopian novels, most notably The Hunger Games. They both feature women thrown into circumstances outside their control and forced to grow up much too quickly. However, that’s where the comparison stops. Unlike Katniss, Ellani is an elite member of her society – she benefits from all the awful things in her dystopia. And she wants nothing more than to fit into that society, as much as her father wants her to be Natural. She’s very whiny, annoying, and typical “woe is me” teenager at first. She embraces the misogyny of her society, and that made me dislike her even more. When tragedy turns her world upside down, she’s finally forced to wake up and do something more than wait around for someone to pair her off with an eligible bachelor. That’s when she starts to get likeable – she’s vulnerable, but stubborn and strong all at once. Even when her life is essentially destroyed, she finds a way to move on, to find meaning in her life. Not only that, but she’s smart as hell – you hardly ever see a female programmer as the main character in a story. Her determination to beat her situation is what made me stick around to the end.
Like any good dystopia novel, this one offers a world rich in description and development. The writer paints a very vivid of both the world outside of the titular video game, and the world within the game. Although what we see of the Real World isn’t a lot, the few glimpses we get are more than enough to establish the way the society runs, the kinds of expectations placed on the characters. It’s a world of grandeur and show, full of Aristocrats who live only for pleasure and fun. Within the game, Ellani goes through adventures in various environments, and this showcases the writer’s ability to immerse the reader in several worlds all at once. Ellani hops from the wild west, to the 70s, to a Tolkien-like world with dragons. The world-building is seamless and integrated so well into Ellani’s adventures that I never felt like anything had to be explained.
The one complaint I do have about the book, and the only reason I didn’t give it the full five stars, is that the moral of the story comes across somewhat preachy. The philosophy behind the story is fairly obvious once you begin reading it, but Ellani goes on philosophical tangents that jarred me out of the story a couple of times. Her tangents don’t really allow for readers to go between the lines and think for themselves. Personally, I don’t think they’re that necessary to the story, but they weren’t enough to make me put the book down.
In the end, Nexis was a really fun read and trip into a dystopia. Thanks to this book, I’ll definitely be taking the plunge more often into cyberpunk novels in general – it might become one of my favorite genres!