Horrorible Review: “The Courier”

Enjoy this Monday with Mildred

The Courier book cover

The Courier

The Courier is a smallish book and the action rarely lets up so it’s a quick read. Teenager Kris Ballard has been on her own for a while, struggling to survive on the lower levels of San Angeles – the seven story city of merged San Francisco and Los Angeles – by couriering packages on motorcycle. One day this puts her in the wrong place at the wrong time and suddenly she’s stepped in the deep doo doo and all the bad guys want her dead. Luckily for Kris, she’s quick on her feet and has a few friends.  There is a lot of violent action and a slowly unveiled, deep corporate conspiracy. This is not a world run by government.

The most interesting thing about The Courier is the massive beast of a city that has grown up and around today’s cities, truncating skyscrapers and creating literal levels of wealth. If you’re born in or relegated to level one, the best you’ll ever do is get up the ramps to level two, and forget about level three. Only the richest of the rich live on level seven, in the actual sunlight. This is strong science fiction juju, giving us an uncomfortable, dangerous world and making it so interesting you want to keep reading about it.  The author has also given us a believably technologically rich world that gives our heroes added obstacles to overcome. How do you hide when, not only are there cameras everywhere, but everyone has a tracker embedded in their back?

As is becoming increasingly common (thank goodness, finally) the hero of the story is female. Unfortunately, we’re still getting past the era of female heroes having to be messed up emotionally. I’m not sure why this has to be, but generally women heroes are ”badass” but “damaged” and challenged to live in the company of normal people. They’re drunks, continually suffer self-inflicted harm, and often are impossible to be around. And yet, everyone loves them. Yeah, no, I don’t love people like that. In The Courier Kris is young and physically tiny, which gives her a disadvantage in the bad ass department and of course she’s messed up by trauma in her life. At least she’s not a drunk. Still, as women heroes go, she’s not the worst I’ve seen but I can’t help but wonder why can’t heroes just be good people who rise to meet a bad situation?

I was irritated by the good guys’ continual underestimating the bad guys’ badness. Despite a constant barrage of attempts to kill Kris, she never seems to grasp that she should pay attention to her surroundings and maybe not trust everyone she meets. The bad guys spent a lot of time twirling their mustaches, but when they do get down to some actual mayhem they tend to deliver. We also get a good look at their motivations. And again, what the heck is up with torture scenes in books these days? There aren’t many here, but really, do why do we need this every time?

The Operative is the next book in the series, and takes up a few months after the end of The Courier. Again, the action is fast paced but in this book our hero spends almost all of her time injured in some way that nearly incapacitates her. I found that a little boring. The world already fleshed out in The Courier isn’t expanded on much here, which is too bad because the author has a great idea that could be considered dystopian or not, and I seem to enjoy that more than the corporate warfare.

Despite my quibbling, I enjoyed reading Gerald Brandt’s San Angeles books, and will get the last book of the trilogy when it comes out later this year. There’s a lot of science fiction action, the setting is fascinating, and the heroine is likeable.

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