Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
Before anything else, I received a finished copy of Warcross as part of my participation in a blog tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads – this, however, neither affects my opinion nor the content of this review in any way.
Leave it to Marie Lu to come up with a novel that’s timely and terrifyingly plausible. With the real life industry booming with technological inventions and still growing at a remarkably fast rate, the alternate reality the author presents, through the novelty innovation of Hideo, is in-depth, carefully constructed, and extremely enthralling to read about simply because the idea of virtual reality consuming the bulk of our lives is not too farfetched from the present. Ever since my reading experience with her other novel Legend, I’ve been a huge admirer of her talent for vivid imagery. Marie Lu has the uncanny ability to build brilliant worlds and to effortlessly transport her readers to every nook and cranny of her creations whenever she pleases.
Beyond the impressive imagery and intricate world-building, what really blew me away in Warcross was the psychological and moral aspects that were masterfully explored throughout the plot. Not only did the author create a world we, as readers, can easily imagine, but she also managed to depict human behavior so accurately – how people adapt to technology, how people are forced to adapt in order to thrive in spite of looming socioeconomic inequalities, and how the “goodness” or the “badness” of an innovation lies in its user instead of the technology itself.
I distinctly remember sending a PM to my significant other (segue: Is that the right word to refer to someone I’m dating? I have no idea.), which said something along the lines of: “31 pages in, and I’m already in love.” In all seriousness though, it’s hard not to love this book.
The game operated on an international scale, which the author clearly took advantage of. Since the alternate reality encompassed the entire world, Warcross featured a wonderfully diverse set of characters: people from different nationalities (e.g. Emika Chen is Chinese-American, Ziggy is from Germany, Roshan is from Great Britain) and different gender identities. Aside from Roshan, I particularly loved Asher Wing, a person with disabilities and team captain for the Phoenix Riders. Yes, Legend trilogy fans (myself included), Ash is the younger brother of Daniel Wing!!! I’m hoping this gets explored more in the latter installations of Warcross, but I digress.
The plot was thrilling, fast-paced, and addictive. I found myself constantly overwhelmed – in the best possible way – by the world of Warcross and what it had to offer. However, halfway through the novel, I was fairly able to predict a lot of the events in the latter half, which sort of bothered me because I never had that experience with the Legend trilogy. Still, I was undeterred to continue reading, and despite the plot’s predictability, I still found myself thoroughly enjoying the ride as well as the gorgeously neon scenery of Tokyo Japan.
My biggest problem with Warcross was the romantic development between Emika and Hideo. While I found a handful of their interactions to be quite delightful, on a larger perspective, the romance was stilted and awkward. Their relationship, together with the feelings they felt for each other, did not progress as smoothly and as organically as I would have liked. To me, it was pretty apparent that something was off.
Despite this drawback, the ending of Warcross left me in an awestruck – arguably reverent – daze. The book brings to light a handful of questions. Why are we quick to build our lives around new technology? How blurred is the line between good and evil? To what expense are we willing to pay for world peace? How far are we willing to go to eradicate crime and injustice? Can immoral means be justified with a moral end? In this time and age, how do we even begin to define what our concept of morality is? Warcross navigated through moral and ethical boundaries which put our values as an entire species under scrutiny, and if that’s not worth reading, then I don’t know what is.
Excerpt from the book:
Accessing computer systems without authorizaion. Intentional release of sensitive data. Reckless conduct. Four months in juvenile hall. Banned from touching a computer for two years. A permanent red mark on my record, age be damned, because of the nature of the crime.
Maybe I was wrong, and maybe someday I’ll look back and regret lashing out like that. I’m still not entirely sure why I threw myself into the fire over this specific incident. But sometimes, people kick you to the ground at recess because they think the shape of your eyes is funny. They lunge at you because they see a vulnerable body. Or a different skin color. Or a difficult name. Or a girl. They think that you won’t hit back–that you’ll just lower your eyes and hide. And sometimes, to protect yourself, to make it go away, you do.
But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back. So I hit. I hit fast and hard and furious. I hit with nothing but the language whispered between circuits and wire, the language that can bring people to their knees.
And in spite of everything, I’d do it all over again.