ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross, #1)Warcross by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release date: September 12, 2017

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.

Lu’s latest novel creates a cyberpunk future with a massively popular game and a high-stakes plot. Warcross is the titular game that becomes so popular because of the tech it uses and the escapism it provides, that there are World Championships for which millions of people tune in. Emika is a skilled hacker/bounty hunter who uses the ubiquitous connectivity of Warcross to hunt down her targets. She glitches into a game, and instantly get entered into the Championship. But her purpose for being there is as an undercover bounty hunter, who is seeking another hacker in the game.

To understand Warcross, you have to understand how the tech works for it, and there in lies a fragment of the plot. The brain-computer interface can create endless virtual worlds, relying on neuronic impulses to create virtual images. There is also an augmented reality nature to it, as shown when the setting shifts to Tokyo, where it has been embraced fully. Emika’s experience in this futuristic Tokyo is enchanting and exciting, and if you think Tokyo is magical now, wait till you see what Lu imagines for it in this novel.

Emika’s entry into the Championship is not a smooth transition, as instead she has to now learn the moves of professional players and how to work in a team. She has been mostly a lone wolf since the death of her father, and her background makes her street smart and wary. As her job is essentially spying, you are constantly on the lookout for who could be the culprit. As for her boss, Hideo Tanaka, she has idolized him since she was a preteen and he was a prodigy who created Warcross. Slowly, she gets to know him on a personal level and a romance ensues. But the nature of her job and the secrecy involved means they have to hide both sides of their relationship. Nevertheless, technology comes to their rescue and allows them for a deeper understanding and constant communication with each other.

Now, as the novel is about the game, too, we do see a couple of games. The matches are immersive, and epic in nature, with entire worlds being played. Imagine Inception but with like a game of Capture the Flag. But besides the game sphere, there is also the seedy Dark Cross – the Dark Web of the game, where almost everything is available, for a price. Here is where she makes a few appearances, and it is scary how Emika’s emotions make you too anxious about the place. As I said, high stakes and that is literally your virtual self here. The plot takes her across vividly imagined fantasy worlds, and the futuristic augmented Tokyo and the dreary Dark Web, and the possibilities of tech and the implications of it.

The plot weaves a hunt, a spy mission and gaming into a seamless story that entertains throughout. The pacing is good, relaxing in training sessions and other expositional parts but picking up when needed to skip ahead in the timeline. There are twists, and I could see a couple of them coming but there was a major one I did not even contemplate, even though looking back I realized how sneakily the author had placed the clues for it. The identity of Zero, though, poses a big question on the motives of the character itself, something which I am hoping will be clarified in future novels. In any case, this one is a must-read. and I already can’t wait for the next!

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Penguin Group, via Netgalley.

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3 thoughts on “ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017 | YA on my Mind

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early | YA on my Mind

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