Warcross was a highly anticipated read for me, with it's near- future setting and virtual reality vibe. I'm also a newcomer to Marie Lu's work so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. This one definitely lived up to the hype. YA science fiction can be hit or miss for me but I'm happy to report that this one turned out great. And I'm ready to read on- I wasn't sure initially if this was a standalone or the beginning of a series, but judging from the ending I think we're going to see more. I sure hope so.
Emika Chen is a hacker and bounty hunter. She plays a game called Warcross, which is a state of the art virtual reality game that has taken the world by storm, but she not only plays the game, she has hacked it as well. She's broke and is about to lose her apartment when she hacks into the game during the championship opening ceremonies, and by doing so comes to the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the creator of the game. Fearing that she'll be arrested or sued, she's surprised when he offers her a job and flies her to Tokyo.
There's a reason he wants her services though, and as events play out she realizes there may be more at stake than simply a game. Emika ends up playing in the championships, alongside elite players, and even as she explores the dark undercurrent of virtual reality she also engages in thrilling, high- stakes games in some awesome virtual reality worlds. It's a heady mix of real world and fantasy, with just a smidgen of romance thrown in. The romance itself might have been unnecessary, but it does add a little zing to the proceedings.
This was fun. I was a little underwhelmed at first as I didn't really buy a teenage hacker/ bounty hunter actually hauling in criminals, as well as navigating the Warcross version of the dark web, but other than that I liked everything here. Emika worked for me other than the initial skepticism, and Hideo mostly worked too as her patron and perhaps more? Emika found him cold and aloof at times, until they got to know each other, but I actually didn't see that. The other thing I really liked was the supporting characters- there are a fair amount of them introduced once Emika gets to Tokyo, but I never felt overwhelmed or like I couldn't keep the people straight.
Standouts for me were Hammie, the team thief (every player has a role) and Kenn, a confidante of Hideo's, and there are even a few surprises towards the end. I love the idea of enemies coming together to face a common threat, and we get some of that here as well. All in all I think the team dynamics and the actual matches- set in alternate worlds- were some of my favorite parts of this one. Add to that a compelling question about technology and the effects it has on our freedoms, and you have a story that gets better and better as it goes. I had a great time with this, and other than a few reminders that the protagonist is young for what she gets into, I would wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone interested.