Warcross by Marie Lu is a sci-fi thriller from an author that has already written two other trilogies- Lu is someone who’s had practice and it shows. Warcross will satisfy YA fans of any age. Protagonist Emika Chen is smart, capable, and well drawn out. The world she inhabits is immersive, bright, and is believable enough to seem like it could be the not too distant future.
- The title comes from the game that everyone in the book is playing- Warcross. Within the span of a few years, Warcross, a fully immersive virtual reality game, has become a worldwide phenomenon where almost everyone is at least a casual player. Readers with at least a passing interest in gamer culture (which is everyone, thank you apps) will be able to recognize how similar our world is to Lu’s. Lu mixes so much of her own vision of a future based around this game with very real tech/gamer culture. She creates a bustling and bright future Tokyo backdrop where for the majority of the novel takes place to take place in. Reading her seamless integration of imagined and kind of real tech is half the fun of Warcross.
There’s a whole economy based around Warcross, just like the one surrounding our real world’s popular games. There are pro leagues as well as illegal betting which is where our protagonist comes in.
Emika Chen works in NYC as a bounty hunter where she most often tracks down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. She is a young, world-class hacker, with a somewhat troubled past. Yes, she does have the specific skill set necessary to contribute to the plot. Due to unfortunate circumstances Emika literally hacks herself into the game during an internationally televised event. After, she is whisked away by the young billionaire creator of Warcross (and the associated VR tech) Hideo Tanaka and instead of being arrested offered a bounty hunting job that can set her for life.
Emika is fully realized character. Lu creates a distinct young woman with strong personality that will draw readers in. Emika and the supporting cast seem very real- one of my few complaints is not giving those other characters more page time- they seem worth getting to know.
I would have liked to have some of the novel’s space that’s dedicated to Emika’s romantic plot, which is a significant part of the novel, spend a little more time on other main characters who, without giving anything away, are necessary to the storyline.
As the opener to what will be a multi-novel series, Warcross will leave fans waiting to see what happens next. Though a blurb weirdly compared it to “The Hunger Games” the world of Warcross- which is more Black Mirror dystopia lite is still way less bleak, at least so far.
The world of Warcross is just weird and filled out enough to feel new yet grounded into having a slightly more realistic feel.
Warcross follows many of the tropes of the sci-fi YA dystopia model but is overall a refreshing read- buy it for the teen or any YA lover in your life.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.