REVIEW: Warcross by Marie Lu


Warcross
by Marie Lu

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Length: 368 pages

Release date: 12 September 2017

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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.

Marie Lu has developed significantly as a writer.

I remember picking up Legend a couple years ago at the recommendation of a friend and rolling my eyes at the silliness of the contrived dystopia after barely a few chapters in. A future where the SAT (c’mon, we all know what that test really was) taken when you’re 12 determines the rest of your life?

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So you see how I was a little skeptical when I saw her new sci-fi novel announced. And wow, it was worth it. Warcross is still silly and over-the-top, but it pulls it off with such aplomb and flair that I’m more than willing to go along with whatever Lu tells me. 18-year-old hacker gets caught up in the world’s biggest conspiracy which all takes place in virtual reality? Heck yeah!

Yes, everything would have been more realistic if the primary characters were aged up by five years or so, but where’s the fun in that. *thinking* The nasty side effect of making Hideo Tanaka the world’s most eligible billionaire and writing him as such meant that I get a mental picture of Christian Grey every time he’s described in his office, but you can thank E.L. James for that, I guess. Hideo himself is…alright? For such an important character I’m much less opinionated on him than I should be. Not gonna lie, I found him kind of creepy. It’s cool that Emika has (had?) the hots for him, but if she didn’t, things could have gotten…awkward…with the way he was carrying on. The end of Warcross has the “setting up for a love triangle in the sequel” vibe anyways, so we’ll see how that pans out.

Oh, and Emika’s cool. I don’t have much more to say about her–no exceptions, no “buts.” She’s chill and awesome.

Some parts of the world-building need to be either better fleshed out or simplified. The distinction between “regular” Warcross and competitive Warcross matches is never quite explained and needs a good deal of clarification. So you can play actual Warcross games, but you can also just leave Warcross running in the background and collect points for doing everyday things like washing the dishes or watering a plant? Help me out a little here, I’m confused.

That said, Lu’s experience in the gaming industry shows with her vivid imagination and use of tropes from MOBAs, of which Warcross is basically one. ‘Cause the in-game mechanics are great. I love the powerups. Powerups, people. POWERUPS EVERYWHERE.

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Without giving spoilers, the plot is fast-paced and fun at the start, drags a little between the 50% and 80% marks, then speeds up again to a frantic pace that culminates in a couple huge plot twists. I partially saw one of them coming, but not in the way that it happened.

I’m hyped for the sequel. Bring it on.

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