Welcome to San Angeles, the setting of Gerald Brandt's San Angeles series and every bit as much a character as a backdrop. The Courier is the first book in the San Angeles series and it introduces us to Kris Ballard, a 16-year old girl who ekes out a living by working as a motorcycle courier on levels 2-5 of San Angeles. She's been on Level 1 before, but stays away as much as possible. There might be "bad neighborhoods" on other levels, but Level 1 is the vile underbelly of this beast of a city. Levels 2 through 5 have increasingly better conditions, but access to Levels 6 and 7 are regulated and is off limits to the likes of Kris.
This is the world that the corporations have created. A place for everyone and everyone in their places, with people in Level 1 working in sanitation and processing plants to support the lives of those in the levels above them and a day/night cycle akin to flipping off a light switch. The upper levels enjoy sunrises and rain and, when they like, travel to space stations for holiday or business. You see, they have space travel, but nothing fast enough to enable reasonable exploration and colonization of other planets. Hence, the existence of megapolis cities like San Angeles.
Not everyone is on board with the corporations' gameplans, however. There is an anti-corporation movement - an underground resistance group - known as ACE. ACE is anything from unorganized graffiti artists tagging anti-corporation propaganda to its central operations unit which is more organized than some of the corporations out there.
Kris? She's not political. She's just trying to break even. She picks up her packages and delivers them. On a good day, she might get some good tips and, perhaps, even get home before her cheapskate landlord turns off the hot water for the night. Today started off looking like a good day. Hell, it started off looking like a great day. Kris could almost taste the shower, until she got stuck with one ill-fated, late-day delivery. Way out of her way and with her already tired, Kris' day goes from good to bad to the worst day of her life, when she arrives to deliver the package and witnesses a gory murder. This one instant changes her life, as she now is on the run from, well, pretty much everyone. Since the government is basically run by the corporations, she can't turn to the police, either.
Kris runs into a few really bad characters that appear to want her dead. There's nobody on her side. But, even without any assistance, whether through reflexes, skill or blind luck, she manages to stay alive while corporations are trying to take her out. This attracts the attention of corporations and ACE, alike. IBC, a corporation, picks her up and tells her to complete the mission, while ACE sends an agent named Ian Miller to try to recruit her. When she gets an audience with the Assistant Director of ACE, she finds that her past may be tied to ACE in ways she never would have guessed. Plus, it turns out that ACE can help protect her in ways she didn't even know she needed to be protected - if she joins - and, if she doesn't... well, the corporations would catch up with her sooner, rather than later. However, Kris just can't catch a break and even this meeting goes sideways, finding her on the run, again.
All this and she never opens the package - courier's code and all. However, this mysterious package could lead to the change of life as everyone on Earth knows it... and another very bloody Corporate War.
The Courier is a rollercoaster, filled with action, intrigue, espionage and some disturbing unwanted sexual advances. I found myself reading "one more page" then "one more chapter" until I got to the end of the ride. Highly recommended.