I knew almost right away that I would love Warcross. It has a rainbow haired hacker protagonist, subterfuge, and virtual reality. But what I didn’t know, was how much better than I had imagined. The book only got better as it went on and the ending was just an explosion of amazement for me – in terms of themes and characters.
Warcross is the premier international virtual reality video game. It has not only turned into a phenomenon of virtual reality gaming, but also of real life as real life events are integrated into the Neurolink. Emika has been obsessed with it and Hideo Tanaka’s, the creator, life since she took refuge in it over a decade ago. Tracking down people who are gambling illegally on the game is her role as a bounty hunter and she’s in desperate need of a win.
Seizing her one, albeit very illegal chance, to change her fortune, Emika accidently glitches herself into the Championships. But what Emika doesn’t realize, is that this incident will turn her whole life upside down. Instead of being arrested, she is instead offered a job, by Hideo himself: to spy on the competition in order to figure out the source of a security issue. However, the stakes are even higher than that and Emika is playing in a game she doesn’t understand – something that will change the world again.
So I knew I would love Emika from about page one. I mean rainbow hair? Skating pro? Instant love. And the more I found out about Emika, the further I fell. She is compassionate, intelligent, and an underdog. Emika is complex not only because of her backstory (with her father and computer skills), but also her narrative voice. At time, hilarious and other’s entirely vulnerable, Emika takes us on a ride of our own.
Without spoilers, I want to name two things I really enjoyed: the romance and the character of Hideo. The romance was not hurried and there was a genuine effort to make it realistic. It was also incredibly nuanced with many layers of interaction as well as history. Now onto the subject of Hideo, and the other characters. Hideo is wonderful character and he is exposed to us in fantastic ways – it is a great interaction between showing and telling.
His character was another instant like for me, because those brooding types are always my favorites, but he too only got better as the book progresses. At the end he is just gold – incredibly complex gold nonetheless – but so great. Additionally the side characters, especially Emika’s team mates, are people I would love to work and play with. Especially Hamilton. Like I would be hard pressed to figure out, if I had to pick one, who I would pick between Hamilton and Emika.
VR and Reality
The entire concept of the novel is fascinating to me on so many levels: the VR game and the ethics of the technology itself. Warcross is video gaming on epic proportions and it is all about the fame, money, and immersive spectacle. The entire world and the game itself is made even clearer by Lu’s amazing world building description. The interaction between our ‘reality’ and the virtual reality (through experience points for going to school, watering plants, etc.) is captivating.
This entire concept questions this line we draw between reality and fiction, in a way that only becomes progressively more intricate – and important – as the novel continues. As virtual reality starts making the impossible more possible, the line between them disintegrates. When access to a fantasy becomes readily available, how many of us will want to live in the real world?
Even though I saw the twist coming, there is something so satisfying about being right. The surprises and unveilings in the end are just perfect. It takes this novel from entertaining to thought provoking – asking us real questions about privacy in the digital age and ethics of technology.
Warcross is fast paced and obsessive – like being sucked into your own immersive VR world. I finished this in one day and am already anticipating the sequel. With that ending, how could you not? It is easily one of the best books that is not only packed with adventure and teamwork, but also tackles real issues that have an impact on our society today.
Disclaimer: Thank you so much for Penguin for sending me an ARC all the way from NY. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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