In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born among 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 when their separate worlds collide, Ella will have to choose between love and survival. Because Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.
And it’s been waiting for Ella.
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This book was first published on Kurt's Frontier.
Ellani Drexel is natural in the domed city of Evanescence. She lives in a world of aristocrats who alter and modify their bodies to make them more “perfect.” Naturals are those who have not had any mods or alts done to them. Ella wants to get one or two to be like everyone else. However, her father forbids it. He is honoring a promise he made to Ella’s mother before she died. There are also the Disfavored. They live outside the domed cities on a post-apocalyptic landscape. The natural world is gone, apparently forever. The air outside the domes is toxic. This is the result of a manmade disaster.
Ella’s father has invented a virtual reality game called Nexis. Its popularity stems from allowing people—aristocrat, natural, and disfavored—to escape from the hellish reality they have created. People can experience the world as it was before the disaster. They can have lives they couldn’t have in the real world.
When Ella is involved in a crash that destroys her legs, she finds herself alone: trapped in her house, no more than a prisoner. The game is her only escape. She can feel whole again, has friends, adventures. But, the Nexis is not all that it seems. It has a purpose, and Ella is the key.
Full discloser, I’ve no real fondness for dystopian fiction. At first, this book seems the same. Same old tropes: man-made climate disaster, a gap between the haves and have-nots, intrigue, and a need to escape. A.L. Davroe attempts to breathe new life into the old tropes by adding intrigue in the form of a game. Ella strikes the reader as a typical teen: moody, rebellious, wanting to fit in. When her father dies in a crash that leaves her without her legs, she finds herself with others controlling her fate. A young girl who helped her father code the game is now presumed dead. Her only escape is a game that is the key to change in her world.
So, how well did A.L. Davroe succeed? We come to care for a complex teen girl for whom the world seems to have turned on. While I was able to put the book down, it still intrigued me enough to buy the sequel. It makes excellent use of what I’ve always considered a writer’s greatest tool. The question “What if …?”