Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game–it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships–only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
Warcross by Marie Lu follows the story of eighteen year old Emika Chen. A YA Urban Sci-Fi, this is set in the future where a virtual reality game has taken the world by storm. The game is called, you guessed it, Warcross. Emika has been living as a bounty hunter, finding people who have been illegally gambling in the underground network and handing them over to the police to earn money. When we meet Emika, she is on her last leg, about to be evicted from her apartment and losing bounty after bounty. However that all changes when Emika tries to hack into the Warcross system and she finds herself broadcast in the middle of the opening of the Warcross World Championships.
This review will be kind of spoiler-y but not too much. I had a lot of issues with this book. A LOT. So I’m going to start with all the things I liked. The premise was pretty good, particularly to begin with. I was intrigued and excited about where the story might go. However, this feeling did dwindle rather quickly. There is also good representation in this book with characters from all over the world.
Now onto the things I did not like. Put on your seat belts, strap yourselves in, this is going to be a wild ride. The first impression that I got from the writing is that it felt like it was written by a wistful teenager. I get that the character is a teenager herself but the writing needs to be a little bit more sophisticated if it wants to be accessible to more than just teenage girls. I also wondered if this was because Marie Lu herself was young. But no, she’s 33.
There are also lots of moments where the prose feels fragmented and jumpy and I found it quite difficult to read. At times I had to read a sentence or a passage a few time because I just could not get what Lu was trying to say. As well as this, there is just way too much description. I don’t think you could even call in purple prose, it’s just unnecessary prose. And it’s not good writing. It’s annoying and comes across quite child like.
One of the first things you get taught as a writer is ‘show not tell’. That is, show me, for example, how this character feels uncomfortable, rather than saying ‘this character was uncomfortable’. Marie Lu fails at this. Spectacularly. It’s made worse by the fact that the narrative is told in first person which makes it even more unrealistic that Emika would know these things. For example, there’s a moment where someone is “coughing a little, the sound indicative of something chronic.” NO. Just no. Someone coughing, just coughing, does not mean they are dying. Especially as a) this is the first time Emika has met this person and knows barely anything about them and b) in what world does someone hear some else cough and immediately think ‘ah yes, death must be near’?! Literally never. Ever.
Okay. Now onto pet peeves. Firstly, of course the rich hot guy has a ‘British accent’. Not only is this so overdone, but a ‘British’ accent? What does that even mean? There are dozens upon dozens of accents from the UK. PICK ONE! If what you mean is that his accent was that of a posh school boy, SAY THAT.
Secondly, the romance trope. I saw it coming from the first moment Hideo’s name was mentioned. “Oh I’d been obsessed with him from the very beginning, he made me who I am today and why I love doing what I do, he’s so perfect.” Predictable. Gross. She falls in love with a hot billionaire who’s slightly older than her. Their love is secret though, because he hired her to do a job, so no one can know. Also, can I just say, kind of inappropriate to date your employee. It’s not only a violation of power as a celebrity but also as her boss. I can’t help but feel like he takes advantage of her slightly, especially considering that on all of their ‘dates’ they talk about work. She’s also obsessed with him so that’s kind of creepy, so I guess they deserve each other. Furthermore, it’s even more taboo because the tabloids are constantly speculating about his love life and it seems that everyone wants to get into his pants. But no, he falls for her. For what reason, I have no idea. And that moves me onto my next point.
Emika Chen has literally zero personality traits. She’s about as interesting as a garden snail. There were so many moments within the first few chapters where I would audibly groan by how annoying she was being. I feel like my experience reading this book was just one big eye roll. She is incredibly self deprecating, but you don’t care about her (the main character) as a person enough to want to give her that boost and just wish that she could see how amazing she is. You just find yourself agreeing with her. Yes, you are the human equivalent of a sprout. Which leads me to my point. She’s a Mary Sue. (If you don’t know what this is, click on this link.) And she’s a more annoying Mary Sue than Bella Swan. And that’s saying a lot.
I’m going to say it, it’s taken me a lot of courage to come here today to say, I don’t care about Emika Chen’s rainbow hair. I really, really, really, really, really really don’t. Not only is it the only defining personality trait she has (which makes it even more annoying) it’s probably mention every other page that she does, indeed, have rainbow hair. Also, why oh why does Lu find it necessary to describe what every character is wearing in minute detail. It makes the book feel like it was written by a ten year old who has discovered adjectives for the first time. Please stop. I do not care.
The time has come to discuss my biggest pet peeve in any book. And that is the phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t realise i was holding.” *Sigh*. Even if I am absolutely in love with a book, if a novel has this phrase in it it will automatically get bumped from a 5 star rating no matter what. And guess what. It happens twice in Warcross. TWICE. Well done, you have just aligned yourself with a primary school kid thinking they’re a genius for using this line. You’re not unique, you’re not clever and this is just, downright, shit. I feel like I need to apologise to my eyes for having to read that. TWICE. IT SAYS IT TWICE.
Anyway. The world building is something that I didn’t hate. I know, shock. It was actually probably one of the best parts of the novel and yet even that feels both overdone and under done at the same time. Let me explain. All of the world building that does exist is very one dimensional. There’s no depth to it whatsoever. If I someone had to explain it, it would be ‘it’s virtual reality, and that’s about it.’ Even the virtual reality had no uniqueness to it. You basically have to apply your own preconceptions about what virtual reality is to gain an idea about what you’re supposed to be seeing. However, at the same time, the world building is incredibly vigorous. It’s like someone is dancing on the page naked, shouting “LOOK AT ME, I EXIST” every other paragraph. Three chapters in and I’m exhausted. And, once again, I couldn’t care less.
I would also have liked more scenes of them actually playing Warcross. I mean, the book is about the game, so I don’t think I’m asking for a lot when I want more than one scene of the game to exist. But maybe that’s just me.
Moving onto the ‘twist’ at the end. I physically dropped my book. But no, not in shock.It was so obvious I saw it coming from miles away and byt this point, I was so done with the book if I had had more than 2 pages left (literally) I would have stopped reading. Additionally, by the end, Lu gets the reader thinking about the ethical limits of technology and virtual reality. However, I feel like this could have been executed much better. I gain the understanding that this is point that the novel was perhaps trying to make, and yet it’s passed off almost as a side note. It’s something to explore later, stuck on right at the end with hardly enough time for the reader to comprehend the message trying to be portrayed. Great idea, poorly executed.
However, I think the biggest problem for me was how much of a let down this book was. All I’ve seen are amazing reviews. Everyone I follow online has given it five stars and so many people are saying it’s one of the best books of the year. And so when I came to read it and really did not like it, I felt so deflated. Ultimately, Warcross is a badly written re-write of Ready Player One with more diversity. I haven’t yet read Ready Player One and I KNOW that this is the case.
WIth all that being said, however, (and I’ve said a lot), I will almost definitely read the next book and this was a quick and easy read. I’m not going to discourage you from reading it because I would love to see your thoughts. If you have read Warcross, let me know what you thought in the comments and if you liked this review, please give it a like and share.
Until next time, xoxo
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