Warcross #1. Author: Marie Lu.
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 certainly fast paced and action packed – almost too much so for my taste. I don’t think this is going to be a problem for most readers, mind you, just a matter of personal taste here. Emika is a loner, and part of what that means is that none of the other characters are deeply developed. She just doesn’t spend enough time with them. There’s her roommate, whom we leave behind in the first couple of chapters; her teammates, whom she constantly brushes off and never has enough time to hang out with; her… Love Interest. OK, as far as I can tell everyone in the bookish community disagrees with me, but… I didn’t think it was romantic. Hideo is her childhood idol. Emi’s been dreaming about him and looking up to him for years – this is canon, folks – and it’s just weird when they start making out. She barely knows him (as is revealed later in HUGE SPOILERY TWISTY STUFF). It’s fantasy fulfillment. That’s it. She gets to make out with the billionaire boy of her dreams, literally in a hot tub at one point. Listen: objectified.
The setting was very colorful and descriptive, but flat. We really only see one side, that of the Game from Emi’s perspective. Not how it effects the world, or the layers of society, or really what’s going on outside her circle at all.
And if Emi’s LI seemed like fantasy fulfillment, Emi herself is almost an avatar for the reader. Rainbow-haired skater girl who can track down + wrestle criminals, hack like the pros, and gets lifted right out of an ‘ordinary’ life into the highest circles? Really? I love skilled girls who know what they’re about, but you can’t convince me a self-taught teen hacker is really better than every other pro out there, especially when she supposedly spends so much time working and hunting down criminals because she’s poor. When does she practice?
Also, just about everybody is comparing Warcross to Ready Player One – that was my first thought too, but I’ve just recently finished RPO, so that probably played a part. The premises really are very similar though. Warcross is faster-paced and more flashy, consistent with it’s YA status, but RPO was definitely more 3D and hefty; the worldbuilding was solid, the characters much more real in my mind, the game more believable instead of feeling cinematic.
Sexual Content: Character remembers getting in trouble for going after school kids who managed to sneak a naked picture of her friend and distribute it. Character passes dark-net shops offering virtual sex. Very detailed kissing. Girl dreams about being in boy’s bed./ “I can’t remember when we start kissing or when we stop, or when he leans against me, made weak, whispering my name.” – Not sure about the implications here. /
Language: 13 hell, 5 d***, 4 uses of “God”, 2 scatological terms, 1 derogatory term
Violence: Character tasers a fugitive. Some low-gore vid game violence, including explosions and knives. Bodyguard shot in the shoulder. Explosion takes out an entire house, several characters are injured + hospitalized, but no one’s killed.
Other: Brief mention of past homosexual relationship between two boys.