When Marie Lu debuted she was marketed as a video-game-designer-turned-YA author, so it seemed inevitable that we would get a video game centered YA from her. If you’ve read her Legend series you might recall the characters visiting a futuristic Antarctica, where citizens live in a domed city with holograms and virtual reality technology that allowed them to earn points in a gamified society.
This seems to be ground zero for the near present future in Warcross, where NeuroLink technology invented by the illusive young genius Hideo Tanaka has changed the world. Virtual reality is ubiquitous and the game Warcross is an international past-time.
Hideo fills the role of the larger than life icon/savior that we usually see in Marie Lu novels, who will inevitable cross paths with our protagonist. In this case the protagonist is Emika Chen, an 18-year-old criminal hacker who takes on bounty hunting jobs to get by. Desperate to make ends met she hacks into the Warcross Championships. Impressed, Hideo decides to hire her and sends her undercover to catch a criminal and score her biggest bounty yet.
Warcross has a series of plot twist and subversion with a graying scale of mortality. Lu really carves out the aesthetics for the world; we get Lu’s signature action sequences and troubled characters with a good helping of angst. I particularly liked that Emika’s father was nuanced enough to have been very loving and extremely troubled at the the same time.
The story itself is very bloated There are a ton of characters to keep up with and between the undercover operation, romance, the actual Warcross Championship plus the story arcs of the other players it’s very easy to get distracted
There are some head nods to the Legend series that fans will enjoy picking up on. The ending has a big cliffhanger and major reveal that, as a Marie Lu fan, has me curious enough to reach for the second book I TOTALLY SAW THE ENDING COMING. ANYONE ELSE ???
Nancy Wu’s acerbic narration drops listeners into a high-tech future in which virtual reality has become ubiquitous, and Warcross is the world’s most popular video game. When a skilled hacker threatens the Warcross Championships, creator Hideo Tanaka will need a bounty hunter, a hacker, and a gamer to investigate. Luckily, Emika Chen is all three. Unhurried in her narration, Wu finds a natural tone for the streetwise teenager as she goes undercover at the international competition, which provides a mixed bag of accents for Wu to manage. She keeps up with some, but a few don’t quite hit the mark. However, she shines in delivering the intensity of the virtual reality action and the uncertainty of young love as Emika and Hideo become closer and secrets are revealed. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: OCTOBER 2017]