Warcross by Marie Lu
Publication date: 14 September 2017
Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 VR glasses
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinion on the book at all. This review is spoiler-free.
I had never read anything by Marie Lu before Warcross came out, but I was always interested. When the opportunity to read this book arose, I knew I had to give her a shot. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I hadn’t read many gaming books.
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.
Plot and World Building
I really loved Lu’s vision of the not-so-distant future. It’s a shiny world, particularly when we get to Tokyo, but it still feels incredibly grounded in reality. This is a world that I can imagine living in one day. I liked how integrated Warcross and virtual reality were – nearly everyone has access to it through the generosity of Hideo Tanaka, the game’s creator. For me, it almost reflected the madness that was Pokemon Go, except that Warcross actually lasts and makes a lasting global impact (yikes).
When it comes to virtual reality plots, the author’s imagination is truly the limit. Lu did such a great job with imaginative descriptions of the game’s landscape. You can really see her background as a video game artist shine through. The technology was easy to understand — again, making it feel very realistic — and still managed to be so incredibly cool.
I will say that I wish there was more descriptions of Emika’s hacking in the book. We get things like ‘I ran a hacking program’, but no description of the actual process. I’m no expert, but surely it’s more complicated than just running a program. How did she get access to these programs? It felt a character in a hacking TV show mashing the keyboard and suddenly getting access to The Pentagon. I would have loved more details here, but that may just be my background as a sci-fi reader.
I thought the Warcross game itself was…just okay. It is pretty basic: there are two teams of five or six players. The main objective is to steal the other team’s artifact, which is a gem that floats above the head of a selected player. It’s so simple! It’s great in terms of simplifying it for the sake of the story, but I am not convinced that this would draw in billions of viewers and become a global sensation. I would have absolutely loved to have seen Warcross as an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game — think World of Warcraft). The world she describes within Warcross would have been so perfect for this! I think this is just my casual gaming bias coming through.
Finally, I am not sure Emika really needed to be involved in the game in order to work for Hideo. She hacked the game from dingy New York City apartment — why is it necessary for her to become a wildcard in the game? It works for the plot, but I wish this was strengthened a little more.
We really have two main characters in Warcross: Emika and Hideo. It’s true that we have a few others, such as Emika’s Warcross team, but these two are the most important. Emika was awesome — I really liked her. The book is told through her point of view, and her voice is very strong. She’s a very no-nonsense heroine. She knows what she needs to get done and she does it. She is essentially on her own when the book starts, and she manages to build a life for herself through technology. She’s rightfully suspicious when she’s swept off the Tokyo following her Warcross hack, but she knows a good thing when she sees it. She’s incredibly sensible, which is a trait I haven’t’ often seen in YA heroines.
Hideo is the perfect mysterious and broody love interest. I wont say much about him because you learn more and more as the book progresses, but I really enjoyed his public persona versus his private self. I was worried he’d go a little Christian Grey in the sense that he was too messed up to function and would pull the annoying ‘I cannot be with you because I am too ____!’ But I found their relationship not only believable, but enjoyable to read.
Overall, Warcross is an incredibly fun, wild ride. I am absolutely going to pick up her other books — her writing is top-notch! Warcross was easily the most fun book I’ve read in a long time. It’s the perfect thing to snuggle down with on a chilly Saturday — you’ll be whisked away to a world where anything can happen!
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