Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Page Count: 353
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Notable Notables: Diverse Main Characters
Recommended Readers: Y’all like video games and action, right?
I’ve only ever read Legend by Marie Lu, so I’m glad I gave her latest series a chance. I have a soft spot for virtual reality stories (thanks, Tron: Legacy), and Warcross promised to be in a similar vein.
Every day all around the globe, millions log in to Warcross, a virtual reality game that blends seamlessly with real life through special glasses technology. Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter in New York City, tracking down those who bet illegally on the official Warcross games. The job is the only thing keeping her from being evicted from her apartment, having lost her father and only parent. When the job goes awry and Emika needs some fast cash, she hacks into the opener of the international Warcross Championships out of desperation—but in doing so, she glitches herself into the game, something that should be impossible.
Emika’s face is everywhere overnight, and she’s convinced she’s going to be arrested. Instead, Hideo Tanaka, the young billionaire creator of Warcross, contacts her with a job offer: to spy for him as a player within the game to uncover a serious security problem. If she succeeds, she’ll be rich, able to afford to go to university again. With no other prospects, she accepts and is whisked off to Tokyo to become integrated as an official player, but only Hideo and his closest confidants know what she’s truly there to do.
Once the action starts in this book, it doesn’t slow down very often. I love Emika. She’s smart and diligent and also willing to learn from others. Her memories of her father are poignant, heartbreaking, and full of emotion; she’s a character who is shaped by her past while seeking to make the best of her future with the wit and skill set she has.
Her Warcross teammates are also unique and well-rounded characters, with Asher, a disabled character, being my personal favorite. It’s fun to see them working together while the readers learn how the games actually work. I wouldn’t mind playing Warcross at all. It sounds like a blast!
Hideo is also interesting to learn about bit by bit, particularly why he created Warcross in the first place. However, his ulterior motive for Warcross was a trifle disappointing, not because it made me think less of his character, but because of its timing. The concept was one that would have been original if I hadn’t just seen an episode of Voltron that did almost the exact same thing. I also think that his and Emika’s relationship went from frosty to warm a little too abruptly, but what Lu did to keep it interesting was shocking, but in a good way. These two have a bumpy road ahead of them that I hope will keep me guessing throughout the sequel.
I also can’t wait to learn more about Zero despite the predictability of his true identity. (And I won’t lie. I thought about Lelouch from Code Geass and Rinzler from Tron: Legacy whenever he was on the page. The similarities of both name and design were just too close to ignore.) Zero’s actions are wrong and vicious, but his reasoning for committing them are right. I could go on about him, but spoilers. I will say, though, that having Zero and Hideo be foils of each other was brilliant. Four for you, Marie Lu! You go, Marie Lu!
So if some things disappointed me, why did I award this book five stars? A number of reasons. The characters were generally, incredibly solid, with many of them being minorities. The pacing of the story was magnificent, the writing was engaging, and I was sucked in from the get-go; I tore through this book and could not put it down even when I tried to force myself to, and what’s to come in the sequel seems equally promising.
If you’re looking for a good virtual reality, sci-fi novel with diverse characters, exciting action, a dash of romance, and enough gray morality to make you think, Warcross may be your answer.