Warcross by Marie Lu, a wonderfully diverse and stunningly written novel, hooks readers instantly. The level of detail in every moment is remarkable and right off the bat I found myself visualizing every scene. The imagery is intense but it feels natural and doesn’t bog down the advancement of the plot.
Warcross follows Emika Chen, a young hacker who accidentally inserts herself into the opening game of the Warcross Championship. Warcross is a sensational virtual reality game, beloved around the globe. She expects to be arrested, but is surprised to instead receive a call from Hideo Tanaka, the game’s creator. Tanaka offers Emika a job as a spy inside the Championships because he fears a threat to the game. The setting and premise of the world is complex, but Lu manages to introduce concepts completely while avoiding long sections of exposition.
Information is given as needed, but despite how intricate the world is, the principles build on a few new terms which are easy to pick up. There’s no jargon, even when demonstrating how to play the game.
I was captivated by the descriptions of the Warcross game worlds, the enhancements to everyday life when viewed in virtual reality, and the city of Tokyo, where most of the book takes place. Lu is a master at world-building, which takes this book to a new level because of how different the world in Warcross is from ours.
Emika is fierce, funny and resourceful, and I was pleased with her narration. Her attitude in the face of adversity was refreshing. She learned to accept help and work with others while playing in the Championships, but was also a clever investigator for Hideo. It is rare for science fiction books to be truly diverse and to not have “token characters,” but Warcross had an incredible cast accompanied by a variety of backgrounds and stories. I feel that the one aspect of Warcross that could use some fine-tuning is the pacing. Most of the book progresses evenly, and the action is spaced out well. However, towards the end, everything started to feel a bit rushed. The plot started to take some major turns, but I did feel like some of them were not well explained.
I would give Warcross five stars and encourage everyone to pick it up, along with its sequel. In science fiction, it can be a struggle to find a balance between writing likable characters and having a compelling plot. Warcross excels at this, and the pace of the mystery and Emika’s growth as a character complement each other especially well.