Published by Penguin Group (USA) LLC on September 12th 2017
Pages: 366 •Goodreads
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.
In some ways I don’t even know how to begin reviewing Warcross, because there is SO MUCH going on in this book, and it was quite possibly the most hyped book of 2017. It was EVERYWHERE, at every bookish event, conference, or festival people were going crazy trying to get their hands on an ARC. I’ll admit I was wary because I’m not the biggest gamer (I enjoy the Sims, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Nancy Drew, etc. but not really games in the vein of WOW, LOL, etc.) so I didn’t know how much would go over my head. Luckily, Max is an avid gamer so I was able to go to him for questions when I finally received my library hold via Overdrive after a two month wait. While I devoured Warcross quickly and admired the creativity of the book, there were just too many moments that made me either confused or cringe to make it a favorite read of mine.
What I Liked:
- The premise of the book is really creative, and a bit risky almost too, because so much has to be described in such detail to really develop the VR world…so first the “real” world of the novel has to be created, and then the VR world, so I applaud Marie Lu on her ability to do twice the work when it came to setting (although I almost feel like this story would work better as a movie rather than a book so all of the levels, dimensions, etc. can be visually appreciated).
- There’s a lot of great representation in this book without feeling forced. There’s diversity in the ethnicity of the characters, in their sexual orientations, abled vs. disabled, etc. and it’s all very natural- it doesn’t ever feel like it’s an anomaly to have a diverse cast, and while the diversity is mentioned the characters are always very fleshed out beyond the element that makes them diverse.
- It’s always fun reading about absurdly rich people so I enjoyed when Emika got to experience the billionaire life when she travels to and arrives in Tokyo and lives in the fancy Warcross team house (I loved that adorable little robot who would bring them meals and record their preferences! Sign me up for one of those in ten years, please).
- I found Hideo’s backstory really interesting and liked that his motivations for creating Warcross were complex and not black and white View Spoiler »Honestly at the end I was #teamHideo. « Hide Spoiler
- I liked the underlying commentary in the story about what’s going to happen when we’re all addicted to VR and are more invested in it then the real world. Like Emika’s roommate who can’t seriously get her life straight because all she does is play Warcross instead of, you know, worrying about paying the rent. Or how entire homes are decorated with VR rather than actual photos, paint, etc.
“Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact.” -Kindle Edition, Location 1203
What I Disliked:
- Emika was a grade-A special snowflake. She’s literally an orphan/genius hacker/rainbow haired/catches the attention of an unattainable guy upon first meeting protagonist. I personally just don’t like reading about protagonists who are so extraordinary in so many different ways because it honestly just gets boring and predictable. Also, I feel like I was reminded every. other. page. that she had rainbow hair.
- I found myself bored with a lot of the in-game scenes, because there was so much description going on and so much action/fighting. Honestly I was getting a really strong Hunger Games vibe from the tournament games (though I’m sure it’s based on several real video games out there). I was also confused by all of the different elements of the game? Like how in the official tournament it was all about stealing the other team’s artifact, but I wanted to know more about how other people play and make their avatars, build their virtual rooms, etc. If you want a really thorough breakdown on some of the issues with the game, check out Joey’s review, it’s fantastic and really in depth.
- I got a major insta-love vibe. View Spoiler »Right from the get go I was hoping that Emika and Hideo wouldn’t be a thing because how predictable is that? But alas, they of course got together after a few meetings. Sigh. « Hide Spoiler Honestly, I think this book would have been way stronger without a romance!
- The “hacking” is just way too convenient, which is what I was worried about going into the book. I am really over the plot convenience of having a teenage “hacker” who can just work their way into super secure systems and readers are never given any information on how they hack. I’m not expecting a crash course in computer science, but SOME background would be nice rather than “I pulled up my virtual keyboard, typed for two seconds and voila, I’m in!”
Overall: I’m glad I read Warcross because it was a fun and creative story, and I know I’ll end up reading the sequel because I’m intrigued to know how the future of the world pans out given the revelations at the end of the story, and the new characters introduced. However, I was overall left with a feeling of being underwhelmed given how hyped the book was.