Ever since her father died, Emika Chen has been working as a bounty hunter in New York City in order to afford food and rent, and to generally make enough of a living. When she’s not out catching criminals just to make ends meet, she spends time inside Warcross, a virtual reality combat game where opposing teams compete in virtual arenas to steal each other’s artifacts. Being the hacker that she also is, and in a desperate attempt to make fast money, she tries to glitch herself into the opening game of the World Warcross Championships, hoping to get herself a rare power-up that she could sell for thousands to be saved from her debts. Her hack surprisingly works but she also inadvertently puts herself in-game and is immediately caught. She’s convinced she’s going to be arrested, but instead, she gets a call from the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, with a tempting offer. He hires her to compete in the World Warcross Championships as an undercover agent to track down another hacker who previously managed to breach the system.
This was my first time reading one of Marie Lu’s books and I’m quite impressed of how I did not brawl so much into getting used to her writing style. Warcross is fast-paced, with perfectly-balanced elements of action and exposition. Diverse cast of characters were incredibly incorporated in the story, such as the POC, queer, and disabled world-class Warcross players, which undeniably made an overall plus factor.
Emika pretty looks bad-ass from the description, being a hacker with tattoos and rainbow-colored hair, but what makes her a more admirable character is that she remains noble despite life’s struggles. The characterization of Hideo Tanaka is equally remarkable. I mean, who wouldn’t be a sucker for a genius but altruistic (not to mention RICH) bachelor, right? I also love how the gameplay for Warcross was inspired by Hideo’s major life experience. It effectively presented that video games can offer a compelling alternative to a written account, and that game developers do not just code for fame and profit.
Anyhow, I think Marie Lu played it down a bit as to the gaming references and terminologies, like using the term “life” instead of HP to denote players’ health points. She might have intended not to get too technical for the sake of readers with little to no background in gaming, so I mostly just tried to ignore the generic terms, but I think the reading experience would have been better with words that are as technical and futuristic as the overall concept. Emika’s hacking skills are also not fully convincing to me because the story fell short on the details of how she actually applies her hacks. With these setbacks, I understand why some readers felt like the book was written by someone who does not have first-hand experiences with MMORPG and coding. Well, I’m just going to shrug it all off because like I said, it could have been intentional.
My biggest turn-off about the story is that the romantic chemistry between Hideo and Emika seemed forced. I believe that Warcross would have made it even without romantically linking the two main characters too soon. Hideo and Emika could fall in love in the second half of Warcross #2 or so, if the plot permits, but the author already made it happen in this book and it looked so unnatural.
The plot moved quickly and it turned out to be fairly predictable in some areas. What I really did not expect, though, was that big twist in the end. I don’t want to give anything out but I was like “WHOA, WAIT, I DON’T RECOGNIZE THIS CHARACTER ANYMORE!” I’d like to think of that plot twist as a promise of huge character development in the next Warcross book which I’m already looking forward to reading.
Despite the few issues I’ve taken note of, Warcross is a fun easy-read that is really hard to put down. The world that Marie Lu created in this book was wonderfully immersive and vivid, and if you’re not too technical about the gaming and hacking business, I’m sure you will find no flaws and you will enjoy the experience one hundred percent.