Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction
As you may know, if you have seen/read any of my other book reviews, I have not given a whole lot of 5/5 scores, so that tells you something about this book. Hopefully the view is not biased, but the majority of other 5’s I have given are to books that are likewise by Marie Lu, which either means I am biased, or that Marie Lu is a phenomenal author. None of her book series’ are of quite the same genre, which demonstrates her skill as a writer across genres. The Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, Champion) is a young adult dystopian series that is often described as a young adult version of Les Miserables but in a dystopian U.S.A. The Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star) is more of a fantasy series based on Italy during the time of the plague, although the world building and powers involved in this series are very unique and interesting. That leads us to Warcross, the first in a duology that takes place in a world where virtual gaming is immensely popular and the technology is so fine-tuned that people virtually play e-sports or gamble in the world of the internet using an avatar that a person can make and use in a virtual way with special glasses and contacts.
Warcross is told from the perspective of Emika Chen, a rainbow-haired 18-year-old bounty hunter living off of sparsely capturing and turning in Warcross gamblers. When Emika is desperate for money, considering she is a few months behind in rent, she hacks into Warcross during a major event in the hopes of stealing a hacked item to sell to sell to someone in the notorious underworld of Warcross. But something goes wrong with her hack.
Industrial master, Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, along with millions of other people, see Emika’s slip-up. She is instantly asked to be flown to Japan to meet Hideo in person. What she thinks might be some terrible fate for her hacking slip-up turns into a job for a master a hacker such as herself, a job to find another hacker who is going into Warcross and messing with a number of the game’s mainframes. Using the traces that this hacker has left behind, Hideo asks Emika to track the hacker down and prevent him from foiling Hideo’s industrial plans. Emika’s rent is paid off, she is gifted the newest virtual glasses for logging into the game, virtual glasses that are going to soon be distributed to people on a global level, and there’s a catch. Hideo has hired other hackers to track down the person messing with his game, and whoever finds the person first wins an unrealistic amount of money, something Emika could sure use to stay afloat in the world.
Emika is undercover as a hacker, being brought into the Warcross championships as a wild card, a player that will be selected by one of the main teams competing in the championships. When selected for the Phoenix Riders, Emika finds that she can access and hack their personal data much easier by being on their team and living in the same dorms as them. When she finds that one of her teammates, Ren, has more shields and safeguards up against hackers, Emika immediately selects him as a suspect. When she is able to get at least something out of his data, she trails him only to find the hacker messing with Warcross known as Zero.
Among all the hustle and bustle of living a double life, hacker on the side and gamer as a front, Emika and Hideo find that they are interested in each other for more than just their gaming or hacking skills. Hideo, a closed-off person, eventually breaks down and tells Emika that everything he does is for his brother, a brother who went missing one day and was never found again, a brother who enjoyed playing in the park, and whose games became the basis for Warcross.
When Zero comes forth and asks Emika to hack on his side instead of Hideo’s, a number of events fall through that lead to the climactic ending, leaving the reader in anticipation for what Emika will do next.
This book is well-written and fast-paced. It is a book I would recommend for fans of .hack// or Sword Art Online, or even James Dashner’s The Mortality Doctrine series. I would also recommend this for video gamer’s who play League of Legends, Overwatch, or Smite, because it has the feel to it that would hit any gamer’s itch. Lu’s craft is refined and her presentation of first person perspective is done well in present tense, a feat that is not easy for many writers to accomplish. Being one of the few 5/5’s that I have given, I would strongly recommend this book to the appeals I have mentioned above, as well as any young reader who is itching for something exciting that they cannot put down.