Warcross by Marie Lu was one of the most hyped books of 2017, and with any highly anticipated release, there's rightfully a good amount of skepticism as well. Let me put a rest to that. Warcross is the manifestation of Lu's genius, from her experience in video game design, to drawing on influences from her dystopian series Legend.
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.
Warcross is gripping from its very first pages. Set in a world not so dissimilar to ours, its characters make references to pop culture like Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy- you get it. It's a geek's dream- and I happen to be one! At the same time, the technology in this reality has significantly progressed. Instead of bulky virtual reality goggles, people wear NeuroLinks, glasses that tap into the brain and help it create highly visual images and sensory experiences. The NeuroLinks is how a user can enter the world of Warcross, which is where much of this story takes place.
Warcross is a simple video game concept. It's reminiscent of any MMORPG, where many players can interact with each other in real-time via their avatars. The basic premise behind Warcross battles is that there are two teams consisting of various classes of characters, who compete to steal the other team's "Artifact." Think of it as a "capture the flag" scenario.
I loved the idea behind Warcross because it is so wholesomely me. I love video games, and the game of Warcross was conceived so well, with realistic details. This is where Lu's prior experience as a video game designer really shines through. There are some unique elements that she introduces- certain power up's and level scenarios, and then there are clearly elements from video games that she draw inspiration from. But these are all melded together to create her world of Warcross.
The implications of the game are very real as well. People escape to this video game, where they can be someone completely different. Emika Chen, our protagonist, hacks her way through this game and is able to access other users' data. That raises another eyebrow- the importance of cybersecurity when something is used so ubiquitously. (Hint: You could draw modern-day parallels to Facebook, Twitter, etc) By infusing the clearly science fiction story with questions and consequences that a reader can easily imagine, Lu makes Warcross an enjoyable, imaginative read.
Let's go back to Emika Chen for a moment. I thought she was a great protagonist. She taught herself computer science as a means to be self-sufficient and create something on her own, without having to depend on the NeuroLink and the technology that others created for her. The person I didn't love as much was Hideo Tanaka, the prodigy behind the game of Warcross. I won't go into many details, but it was difficult for me to grasp him as a dimensional character when he is introduced as someone so removed from society, so different in the way he thinks, so prodigal. He plays a rather larger role in the story, and is the only character that I was iffy about. That's the reason why I dock one star from my review of Warcross.
I rate Warcross 4/5 stars!