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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.
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.
In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It’s too damn cold of a day to be out on a hunt.
I shiver, tug my scarf up higher over my mouth, and wipe a few snowflakes from my lashes. Then I slam my boot down on my electric skateboard. The board is old and used, like everything else I own, its blue paint almost entirely scraped off to reveal cheap silver plastic underneath—but it’s not dead yet, and when I push my heel down harder, it finally responds, jerking me forward as I squeeze between two rows of cars. My bright, rainbow-dyed hair whips across my face.
“Hey!” a driver yells as I maneuver past his car. I glance over my shoulder to see him waving a fist at me through his open window. “You almost clipped me!”
I just turn back around and ignore him. Usually, I’m a nicer person than this—or, at least, I would have shouted an apology back. But this morning, I’d woken up to a yellow paper taped to the door of my apartment, its words printed in the largest font you can imagine.
72 HOURS TO PAY OR VACATE
Translation: I’m almost three months behind on my rent. So, unless I can get my hands on $3,450, I’ll be homeless and in the streets by the end of the week.
That’d put a damper on anyone’s day.
My cheeks sting from the wind. The sky beyond the cut of skyscrapers is gray, turning grayer, and in a few hours this flurry of snow will become a steady fall. Cars jam the streets, a nonstop trail of brake lights and honking from here all the way to Times Square. The occasional scream of a traffic controller’s whistle cuts above the chaos. The air is thick with the smell of exhaust, and steam billows from an open vent nearby. People swarm up and down the sidewalks. Students coming home from school are easy to spot, their backpacks and fat headphones dotting the crowds.
Technically, I should be one of them. This should have been my first year of college. But I started skipping classes after Dad died and dropped out entirely several years ago. (Okay, fine—technically, I was expelled. But I swear I would’ve quit anyway. More on that later.)
I look down at my phone again, my mind returning to the hunt. Two days ago, I had gotten the following text message:
New York Police Department ALERT!
Arrest warrant out for Martin Hamer.
The police are so busy these days with the increasing crime in the streets that they don’t have time to hunt for petty criminals on their own—petty criminals like Martin Hamer, who’s wanted for gambling on Warcross, stealing money, and allegedly selling drugs to fund his bets. So, about once a week, the cops send out a message like this, a promise to pay anyone who can catch the criminal in question.
That’s where I come in. I’m a bounty hunter, one of many in Manhattan, and I’m fighting to capture Martin Hamer before another hunter can.
Anyone who’s ever fallen on hard times will understand the nearly constant stream of numbers that run through my mind. A month’s rent in the worst apartment in New York: $1,150. A month’s food: $180. Electricity and internet: $150. Boxes of macaroni, ramen, and Spam left in my pantry: 4. And so on. On top of that, I owe $3,450 in unpaid rent, and $6,000 in credit card debt.
The number of dollars left in my bank account: $13.
Not the normal things a girl my age worries about. I should be freaking out over exams. Turning in papers. Waking up on time.
But I haven’t exactly had a normal adolescence.
Five thousand dollars is easily the largest bounty in months. For me, it might as well be all the money in the world. So, for the last two days, I’ve done nothing but track this guy. I’ve lost four bounties in a row this month. If I lose this one, too, I’m going to be in real trouble.
Tourists always clogging up the streets, I think as a detour forces me down a path right into Times Square, where I get stuck behind a cluster of auto-taxis jammed at a pedestrian walkway. I lean back on my board, pull myself to a halt, and start inching backward. As I go, I glance down at my phone again.
A couple of months ago, I’d succeeded in hacking into the main directory of Warcross players in New York and synced it all up to my phone’s maps. It’s not hard, not if you remember that everyone in the world is connected in some way to everyone else. It’s just time-consuming. You worm your way into one account, then branch out to their friends, then their friends, and eventually, you’re able to track the location of any player in New York City. Now I’ve finally managed to place my target’s physical location, but my phone’s a cracked, beat-up old thing, with an antique battery that’s on its last legs. It keeps trying to sleep in order to save energy, and the screen is so dark I can barely see anything.
“Wake up,” I mutter, squinting at the pixels.
Finally, the poor phone lets out a pitiful buzz, and the red location marker updates on my map.
I make my way out of the taxi jam and push my heel down on my board. It protests for a moment, but then it speeds me forward, a dot in a sea of moving humanity.
Once I reach Times Square, screens tower above me, surrounding me in a world of neon and sound. Every spring, the official Warcross Championships kick off with a huge ceremony, and two teams of top-ranking players compete in an all-stars opening round of Warcross. This year’s opening ceremony happens tonight in Tokyo—so all the screens are Warcross-related today, showing a frenzied rotation of famous players, commercials, and footage of highlights from last year. Frankie Dena’s latest, craziest music video plays on the side of one building. She’s dressed like her Warcross avatar—in a limited edition suit and webbed glitter cape—and dancing with a bunch of businessmen in bright pink suits. Underneath the screen, a group of excited tourists stop to pose for photos with some guy dressed in fake Warcross gear.
Another screen features five of the superstar players competing in tonight’s opening ceremony. Asher Wing. Kento Park. Jena MacNeil. Max Martin. Penn Wachowski. I crane my neck to admire them. Each one is dressed from head to toe in the hottest fashion of the season. They smile down at me, their mouths big enough to swallow the city, and as I look on, they all hold up cans of soda, declaring Coca-Cola their drink of choice during game season. A marquee of text scrolls below them:
Top Warcross Players Arrive in Tokyo, Poised for World Domination
Then I’m through the intersection and cut onto a smaller road. My target’s little red dot on my phone shifts again. It looks like he’s turned onto Thirty-Eighth Street.
I squeeze my way through another few blocks of traffic before I finally arrive, pulling over along the curb beside a newsstand. The red location dot now hovers over the building in front of me, right above a café’s door. I tug my scarf down and let out a sigh of relief. My breath fogs in the icy air. “Caught you,” I whisper, allowing myself a smile as I think of the five-thousand-dollar bounty. I hop off my electric skateboard, pull out its straps, and swing it over my shoulder so that it bumps against my backpack. It’s still warm from use, the heat of it seeping through my hoodie, and I arch my back to savor it.
As I pass the newsstand, I glimpse the magazine covers. I have a habit of checking them out, searching for coverage of my favorite person. There’s always something. Sure enough, one of the magazines features him prominently: a tall young man lounging in an office, dressed in dark trousers and a crisp collar shirt, sleeves casually rolled up to his elbows, his face obscured by shadows. Below him is the logo for Henka Games, Warcross’s parent studio. I stop to read the headline.
HIDEO TANAKA TURNS 21 | Inside the Private Life of the Warcross Creator
My heart skips a familiar beat at my idol’s name. Too bad there’s no time to stop and flip through the magazine. Maybe later. I reluctantly turn away, adjust my backpack and board higher on my shoulders, and pull my hood up to cover my head. The glass windows I pass reflect a distorted vision of myself—face elongated, dark jeans stretched too long, black gloves, beat-up boots, faded red scarf wrapped around my black hoodie. My rainbow-colored hair spills out from underneath my hood. I try to imagine this reflected girl printed on the cover of a magazine.
Don’t be stupid. I push the ridiculous thought away as I head toward the café’s entrance, shifting my thoughts instead to the running checklist of tools in my backpack.
2. Cable launcher
3. Steel-tipped gloves
5. Change of clothes
6. Stun gun
On one of my first hunts, my target threw up all over me after I used my stun gun (#6) on him. I started bringing a change of clothes (#5) after that. Two targets have managed to bite me, so after a few tetanus shots, I added the gloves (#3). The cable launcher (#2) is for getting to hard-to-reach places and catching hard-to-reach people. My phone (#4) is my portable hacking assistant. Handcuffs (#1) are because, well, obviously.
And the book (#7) is for whenever the hunt involves a lot of waiting around. Entertainment that won’t eat up my batteries is always worth bringing.
Now I step into the café, soak in the warmth, and check my phone again. Customers are lined up along a counter displaying pastries, waiting for one of the four auto-cashiers to open. Decorative bookshelves line the walls. A smattering of students and tourists sit at the tables. When I point my phone’s camera at them, I can see their names hovering over their heads, meaning none of them have set themselves on Private. Maybe my target isn’t on this floor.
I wander past the shelves, my attention shifting from table to table. Most people never really observe their surroundings; ask anyone what the person sitting at a nearby table was wearing, and chances are good that they can’t tell you. But I can. I can recite to you the outfits and demeanor of every person in that coffee line, can tell you exactly how many people are sitting at each table, the precise way someone’s shoulders hunch just a little too much, the two people sitting side by side who never say a word, the guy who is careful not to make eye contact with anyone else. I can take in a scene like a photographer might take in a landscape—relax my eyes, analyze the full view all at once, search for the point of interest, and take a mental snapshot to remember the whole thing.
I look for the break in the pattern, the nail that protrudes.
My gaze pauses on a cluster of four boys reading on the couches. I watch them for a while, waiting for signs of conversation or the hint of notes being passed by hand or phone. Nothing. My attention goes to the stairs leading up to the second floor. No doubt other hunters are closing in on this target, too—I have to get to him before anyone else does. My steps quicken as I climb the stairs.
No one is up here, or so it seems. But then I notice the faint sound of two voices at a table in a far corner, tucked behind a pair of bookshelves that make them almost impossible to see from the stairs. I move in closer on silent feet, then peek through the shelves.
A woman is seated at the table, her nose buried in a book. A man stands over her, nervously shuffling his feet. I hold up my phone. Sure enough, both of them are set to Private.
I slip to the side of the wall so that they can’t see me, and listen closely.
“I don’t have until tomorrow night,” the man is saying.
“Sorry,” the woman replies. “But there’s not much I can do. My boss won’t release that kind of money to you without taking extra security measures, not when the police have an arrest warrant for you.”
“You promised me.”
“And I’m sorry, sir.” The woman’s voice is calm and cynical, like she’s had to say this countless times before. “It’s game season. The authorities are on high alert.”
“I have three hundred thousand notes with you. Do you have any idea what that’s exchanging for?”
“Yes. It’s my job to know,” the woman answers in the driest voice I’ve ever heard.
Three hundred thousand notes. That’s about two hundred thousand dollars, at the current exchange rate. High roller, this one. Gambling on Warcross is illegal in the United States; it’s one of the many laws the government has recently passed in a desperate attempt to keep up with technology and cybercrime. If you win a bet on a Warcross match, you win game credits called notes. But here’s the thing—you can either take those notes online or to a physical place, where you meet a teller like this lady. You trade your notes to her. She gives you real cash in return, while taking a cut for her boss.
“It’s my money,” the guy is insisting now.
“We have to protect ourselves. Extra security measures take time. You can come back tomorrow night, and we can exchange half of your notes.”
“I told you, I don’t have until tomorrow night. I need to leave the city.”
The conversation repeats itself all over again. I hold my breath as I listen. The woman has all but confirmed his identity.
My eyes narrow, and my lips turn up into a hungry little smirk. This, right here, is the moment I live for during a hunt—when the bits and pieces I’ve exposed of a trail all converge into a fine point, when I see my target standing physically before me, ripe for the picking. When I’ve solved the puzzle.
As their conversation turns more urgent, I tap my phone twice and send out a text message to the police.
Suspect in physical custody.
I get a reply almost immediately.
I pull the stun gun out of my backpack. It catches for an instant against the edge of the zipper, making the faintest scraping sound.
The conversation halts. Through the bookshelves, both the man and woman jerk their heads toward me like deer in headlights. The man sees my expression. His face is covered in a sheen of sweat, and his hair is plastered against his forehead. A fraction of a second passes.
He bolts—I miss him by a hair. Good reflexes. The woman darts up from her table, too, but I could care less about her. I rush after him. He hops down the stairs three at a time, nearly falling in his rush, scattering his phone and a bunch of pens behind him. He sprints for the entrance as I reach the first floor. I burst through the revolving glass door right behind him.
We emerge onto the street. People let out startled shouts as the man shoves them aside—he knocks a camera-clicking tourist flat on her back. In one movement, I swing my electric board off my shoulder, drop it, jump on, and slam my heel down as hard as I can. It makes a high-pitched whoosh—I lunge forward, speeding down the sidewalk. The man glances back to see me gaining fast on him. He darts left down the street at a full, panicked run.
I veer in his direction at such a sharp angle that the edge of my board protests against the pavement, leaving a long, black line. I aim my stun gun at the man’s back and shoot.
He shrieks and stumbles. Instantly, he starts struggling up again, but I catch up to him. He grabs my ankle. I stumble, kicking at him. His eyes are wild, his teeth clenched and jaw tight. Out flashes a blade. I see its glint in the light just in time. I kick him off me and roll away right before he can stab at my leg. My hands get a grip on his jacket. I fire the stun gun again, this time at close range. It hits true. His body goes rigid, and he collapses on the pavement, trembling.
I jump on him. My knee presses hard into his back as the man sobs on the ground. The sound of police sirens rounds the bend. A circle of people have gathered around us now, their phones and glasses all out and recording away.
“I didn’t do anything,” the man whimpers over and over through a clenched jaw. His voice comes out garbled by how hard I’m pushing him into the ground. “The lady inside—I can give you her name—”
“Shut it,” I cut him off as I slide handcuffs onto his wrists.
To my surprise, he does. They don’t always listen like that. I don’t relent until a police car pulls up, until I see red and blue lights flashing against the wall. Only then do I get up and back away from him, making sure to hold out my hands so that the cops can see them clearly. My skin tingles from the rush of a successful hunt as I watch the two policemen yank the man onto his feet.
Five thousand dollars! When was the last time I had even half that much money at once? Never. I’ll get to be less desperate for a while—I’ll pay off the rent that I owe, which should calm my landlord down for now. Then I’ll have $1,550 left. It’s a fortune. My mind flips through my other bills. Maybe I can eat something other than instant noodles tonight.
I want to do a victory jump in the air. I’ll be okay. Until the next hunt.
It takes me a moment to realize that the police are walking away with their new captive without even looking in my direction. My smile falters.
“Hey, Officer!” I shout, hurrying after the closer one. “Are you giving me a ride to the station for my payment, or what? Should I just meet you there?”
The officer gives me a look that doesn’t seem to jive with the fact that I just caught them a criminal. She looks exasperated, and dark circles under her eyes tell me she hasn’t gotten much rest. “You weren’t first,” she says.
I startle, blinking. “What?” I say.
“Another hunter phoned in the alert before you.”
For an instant, all I can do is stare at her.
Then I spit out a swear. “What a load of bull. You saw the whole thing go down. You all confirmed my alert!” I hold up my phone so the officer can see the text message I received. Sure enough, that’s when my phone’s battery finally dies.
Not that the proof would’ve made a difference. The officer doesn’t even glance at the phone. “It was just an auto-reply. According to my messages, I received the first call-in from another hunter on location. Bounty goes to the first, no exceptions.” She offers me a sympathetic shrug.
This is the dumbest technicality I’ve ever heard. “The hell it does!” I argue. “Who’s the other hunter? Sam? Jamie? They’re the only other ones canvassing this turf.” I throw my hands up. “You know what—you’re lying, there is no other hunter. You just don’t want to pay out.” I follow her as she turns away. “I saved you from a dirty job—that’s the deal, that’s why any bounty hunter goes after the people you’re too lazy to catch. You owe me this one and you—”
The cop’s partner grabs my arm and shoves me so hard that I nearly fall. “Get back,” he says with a snarl. “Emika Chen, isn’t it?” His other hand is wrapped tightly around the handle of his sheathed gun. “Yeah, I remember you.”
I’m not about to argue with a loaded weapon. “Fine, fine.” I force myself to take a step back and raise my hands in the air. “I’m going, okay? Leaving now.”
“I know you already got some jail time, kid.” He glares at me, his eyes hard and glittering, before joining his partner. “Don’t make me give you another strike.”
I hear the police radio calling them away to another crime scene. The noise around me muffles, and the image in my mind of the five thousand dollars starts to waver until it finally blurs into something I no longer recognize. In the span of thirty seconds, my victory has been tossed into someone else’s hands.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marie Lu has done it again.I knew the moment I started reading the book that I would fall back into my craving for books. Warcross is an amazing book. I found the plot development very interesting, and the storyline incredibly satisfying, I have one SMALL criticism about just one part of the book, but I don't wanna give anything away. Overall I loved the book, and do not regret reading, even though it's already killing me knowing I have to wait for the second book to come out. I had very high hopes for this book when the synopsis first came out and by no means was I let down nor disappointed. 10/10 will need more
As a gamer and lover of diverse, rich stories, and sci-fi/fantasy, Warcross met all of my needs. I wasn't disappointed with Warcross. A colorful, punk bright exterior of a story with a strong, clever core complete with romance, a killer plot, and awesome ending.
A very interesting read but with several pieces that are very predictable.
I absolutely love this book. It is so empowerig and beautiful.
Aside from knowing immediately who Zero was, this was an excellent story. The well-imagined, just-around-the-corner world, engaging, fully-fleshed characters, and fast action combined to create a tale that drew me in and held my attention. If you enjoy intriguing characters and a fast-paced well-written story (particularly if you are a geek or a gamer), then you are guaranteed a great read. I’m looking forward to the next iteration in this series.
When I started this I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, very different from what I normally read. I loved it! I am not a gamer but hooked on this series. I can't wait for the next one.
This is probably one of the best books I've ever read, I can't wait to see what the other books will be like.
I wasn't sure how I would like this book because I'm not that into video games, but it was fantastic. I knew Lu would deliver a good book, because she's such a phenomenal writer, but I really connected with Emika, and even with Hideo, and the resolution was pretty fantastic. I could say I "saw it coming" but I didn't. I had some mild suspicions, but the end result was still unexpected and a fantastic reveal. Can't wait for the sequel!
This was such a fun, wild ride. Marie Lu is an expert at building interesting, multi-layered stories that keep you on your toes, and WARCROSS is no different. I was triple-guessing everything in the story at every turn, and I’m SUPER excited for the next one in this series.
WOAH! I should start this out by saying I've always thought I wasn't a huge fan of science fiction; but really the truth is, I just hadn't read this book yet. Boy, let me tell you, this is a dang good science fiction book! There wasn't one dull moment and everything that happened in this book was just so captivating. ---Writing Style--- I've got to start this off with the fact that I really love Marie Lu's writing style! This is the first book that I've picked up by her and just by reading chapter one I was hooked. Everything just flows so well and creates a vivid image in my mind. There are times when reading this book that you read over something and later realize that it would make for one amazing quote. She has a way of twisting words and making them have deeper meanings and it's just pure magic. I can fairly say that Marie Lu is now one of my favorite authors and I will for sure be checking out her other books. ---Plot--- The idea of this story is so interesting in the first place. I can't say that I've ever read, or even heard of a book about virtual worlds like this or bounty hunters. It's just so freaking cool. It was very interesting to learn how the virtual reality of it worked and also how it came to be. Of course, horrible backstories had a part in it, nonetheless, pure genius! Not only was the plot of this super original but it was done so unbelievably well. ---Characters--- Any book that has a main character with rainbow-colored hair and a name like Emika is instantly going to strike intrigue! I really liked Emika as a character, she was lots of fun to read about and I loved seeing her progress and get successful from this game. There probably could have been slightly more character development but she was still a really great character to read about. All of the side characters (such as her team) were so fun to read about! They all had very different personalities and the diversity in this book was great! Not to mention, they all really worked well together and it was great to read about them in the game of Warcross. I loved Hideo so much. His character development was really great, he went from being super closed off to open (thanks to Emika). I feel for him with his backstory and really just love his personality all around. Even at the end, when some not so great stuff is revealed about him, I still love him and am slightly cheering him on. It was so hard to really understand that what he was doing was wrong because it could really go either way. I was really just hoping that Emika would be alright with it and they'd just live happily ever after, but ya know, its YA science fiction so of course there has to be some conflict with that. I totally understand it, but I desperately need more, so come on Marie Lu, give me more!
Warcross had me up late reading multiple nights. It deserves the five stars. For this review, I'm gonna nitpick a few things, but only because this book is so damn good that it can take it. First off, I'm mad at my past self for taking this long to read Marie Lu. "Past self, you're an idiot! Why aren't you reading Marie Lu?!" While this book hits the ground running, the scene that really won me over was the first Warcross match with Emika competing as a member of the Phoenix Riders. Writing action scenes is hard. What Marie Lu accomplishes in the first game of the tournament for Emika is amazing. Action scenes are hard enough to write, because they rarely advance the story within the scene itself. Not a problem for Marie Lu. On top of that, writing an action scene within a virtual reality setting is even harder, because usually, the only real thing at stake is pride. Marie Lu gets over that hurdle with room to spare. I will admit that the championship match-up at the end didn't quite hit that same high note for me, though. I think part of that had to do with the vague rules of a fight scene in a virtual world. A gripe that I'll try to make as vague as possible to keep it non-spoilery is the master plan of the bad guy (using the term loosely, and when you read the book, you'll understand why). Once again, this goes to the issues of using a virtual reality as part of the setting. The championship tournament is the key to distributing some mysterious code into all the billions of viewers and it only kicks in at the end of the game. It's a tad "Bond villainous" when it seems this could be accomplished just as easily by planting it in a software update. Overall, the integration of the virtual world into the real world is brilliantly handled. Marie Lu makes me both eager as hell to live in a world like this and equally horrified at the implications. I can totally see Warcross usurping the Super Bowl as the biggest sports tournament of the year (that breaks the heart of my inner football fan just a bit). I'm so eager to see what happens to this world in the second book. One aspect of the world building that left me a bit confused was what happens with the body of the player when they are fully immersed into the virtual reality. At one point, when going to the "Dark World" (and, folks, Emika's first trip there in the book is so damn cool), Emika describes all these physical moves she's making to grab something from another user at one point, but then she adds that in the real world how she's typing all this code to accomplish this. I'm not clear how that works if she's fully integrated into the game world. Surely, you don't want your body flailing around while playing the game (and it clearly doesn't), so not sure about this. In many ways, this book reminds me of the anime Sword Art Online, which also spends the majority of its time in a virtual game world while including real-world stakes. Fans of that anime will also love this book, and for those turned off of Sword Art Online by the more overtly misogynistic elements, you'll love this book even more. My five star rating was a tough call, but I can't rationalize giving it only four. The end of this book delivers a twist that leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The book acknowledges that, and I think it's fair to say that if the sequel(s) doesn't provide a successful set of answers to explain everything, it kind of taints this first book.
This is going to be a review of gushing, hyperbole, and adjectives. As someone who loves video games, diverse stories, and sci-fi (but who is always desperately in search of more sci-fi books), I knew Warcross was going to be a winner. I wasn't disappointed. Like the author, inside a shiny superfun rainbow package is a deviously clever core. With a vibrant main character (not least because of her hair), a dazzling neon cyber-world with a sinister underbelly, a steamy romance, and a breakneck plot, Warcross rockets you through breathtaking rollercoaster loops and smacks you with an ending shock that leaves you clawing for more. Lu has a rare command of both characters and world, with some exceptions. Our MC, Emika, is a snarky Chinese computer whiz whose personality leaps off the page as vividly as her rainbow-colored hair. She's as fierce as Katniss, with a similar edge. Hideo is a Japanese genius playboy worthy of Bruce Wayne's mantle. They spark against each other like flint, their relationship intense and complicated. Unfortunately, the secondary characters don't burn as brightly. I loved Tremaine, the snarky bad-boy hacker and Emika's rival, but Emika's teammates were a little too subdued for people who played such important roles. Even if the main characters had been cardboard, the world was enough to draw me in. Lu crafts an atmosphere with the punch and lightning of old school Nintendo on acid. With precise, evocative descriptions, she renders a futuristic cyber technicolor Wonderland that I'd die to play in. It's a world where virtual reality is layered over physical reality, where you get points for going to the grocery store, where you can slip into fantasy playgrounds with the touch of a button. She gives enough detail about the platform, Neurolink, to seem scientifically plausible, without going into so much detail that the science begins to break down. On this stage, Lu takes the intersection between life and video games to its logical conclusion. The battle game Warcross is something that I could easily see being a real game; Lu's game designer roots are obvious in its intricacy. I was just as enthralled by the descriptions of Warcross battles in the grand tournament as I was with the underlying mystery: who's the hacker Zero and why does he want to take down Warcross? Lu also plays around with the dark side of technology, including an extra-sinister Dark Web that's actually a 3D black market. And the final twist...it's too much of a spoiler to say, but it elevates Warcross from fun cyber adventure to dark cyberpunk thriller with one punch. I won't say Warcross is a perfect book. The side characters get kind of shafted, and the central romance moves a little fast. However, the main characters and the world itself are so intensely vivid that you almost have to squint from the strobelight. I rode Warcross's wave on a rave-like high and crossed the final page with vicious book hangover. It left me with so many questions and theories, so much anticipation. I can't wait to jump back into Lu's technicolor Tokyo and follow Emika as she contends with the dark side of virtual reality. in a sentence Warcross is a vibrant science-fiction thriller that riffs on video game technology to spin a cyberpunk mystery adventure that will leave you reeling.
This is the first book I’ve read by Marie Lu, and boy I should have jumped on her bandwagon much sooner! I went into this book thinking “Ready Player One”, which is a book I absolutely adored. I was pleasantly surprised, I got those vibes with the in game play, but it is its own unique story. I loved the world-building, in game and out of game. At times during the Warcross Championship I felt like I was there trying to help my team win. The character development was amazing. I really enjoyed getting back stories on what I would consider the two main characters. I also loved that it wasn’t thrown at you, it was given in time like we were gaining their trust. I also loved each character, even the ones I wanted to dislike. They all were just perfect pieces to this puzzle. Emi was such a unique character, a bounty hunter, hacker, and an amazing Warcross player. Tanaka was mysterious enough at first to really draw me into his life. I wanted to know everything I could about him, just like Emi. Overall this book completely blew me away! From start to finish I was on the edge of my seat, needing to know what was going to happen next. I’m not a huge gamer, but I understood what was going on and I thought that was super helpful. I highly recommend this book to everyone… just go read it and thank me later. Also I must note after reading this I immediately got the Legend Trilogy, that’s how much I loved Marie Lu’s writing style and story development.
A few years ago, I read Marie Lu’s Legend serier and hated it. I hated everything about it, the writing, the story, the execution. I did force myself to finish the trilogy, but when I was finished I just had this feeling of wishing I’d done something better with that time. So, when her second trilogy came out, I didn’t read it. I don’t like Marie Lu’s writing, I told myself. So, when I heard that a new book was coming out, I didn’t pay much attention. Then, that odd colorful cover got me interested. It was ugly, sort of 80s-style, but still great and still spiked my interest. I read the blurb, I liked the premise. As a gamer and geek myself, I felt drawn to the story. So, when I got the chance though NetGalley to read an ARC if Warcross, I leaped at the chance. But life happened, and it took me a while to get to it. But when I started, I couldn’t stop. And I loved the book. Marie Lu has created a character that you instantly connect to, you care about her and want her to do well. She’s well developed and I really like the fact that Emika knows who she is from the beginning. This is not a story of a weak girl finding herself though silly juvenile mistakes. This is a story of a strong girl who knows who she is and what she can do. The worldbuilding in this story is also great, and I felt like I was in Tokyo as I was reading. The way she had developed the virtual world was believable, and I felt like Marie Lu knows what she’s writing about here. I can’t find much that is wrong with this story and I really want to read the next part of this series. There are a few mistakes, and a few plot holes in the version I read, but since I read and ARC of Warcross, I’m not going to let that take away from my rating. So, all I can say is: Read this book! A clear five stars from me on this one.
Set in a futuristic world where video games and real life interface, Emika, a seventeen year old bounty hunter, faces a moment of temptation that will change her life forever. During the Warcross World Championships Emika hacks the game in a way that shows her face to the world and she goes from on the edge of homeless to world famous and a wild card entry into the Championships. Hideo Tanaka is the child genius who invented glasses that interfaces his Warcross video game with real life. When Emika hacks his game he offers her a job as bounty hunter and gives her entrance into the Championships to work as his spy. I do not play video games and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into this book because of that but I shouldn’t have worried. The world Marie Lu created was vivid, had amazing energy, and painted a 3-D picture for me to visualize and engage with. The games themselves were exciting, the action well written and Emika’s thought process as she deconstructed play exciting. I loved the game! There was plenty of action to keep this book moving along at a fast pace, and when the action slowed down Emika’s relationship with Hideo painted the page with soft brush strokes. I didn’t know if I liked the fast paced gaming or the slower paced relationship better. .
"Warcross" begins a fantastic new YA series from Marie Lu. Fans of the Legend trilogy will rejoice in this new, exciting series! Although the situations and settings are different in this book, they are heavily reminiscent of the Legend trilogy (which I loved) and although carry some gravity, the themes are a lot lighter than the Elites trilogy. Here, we follow Emika, a talented hacker who is struggling to make ends meet- largely because of her criminal history. Emika is on the verge of eviction from her apartment, which will thrust her into homelessness. After her last failed attempt at catching a criminal and securing the bounty for catching him, Emika is desperate. When watching a Warcross match, she seizes an opportunity to test a new hack where she can steal a power-up right before it is used. In doing so, she glitches herself into the game and enters the world stage. Warcross is a virtual reality game played by almost everyone on the planet. The game was created by Hideo (a young inventor) to show what his virtual reality NeuroLink glasses could do, but it quickly launched on its own to rapid popularity. After she glitches into the game, on the verge of the world championships, Hideo recruits Emika for a special job- to help him to catch a hacker (Zero) that is endangering the world championships. Emika's world completely changes overnight as she deals with her new-found fame and her new task. The book is perfectly paced to introduce Emika, reveal the game and stakes, and to give us some insight into Hideo. The games we get to "watch" are fascinating and easy to follow- incredibly clever and imaginative, quickly getting us involved in the suspense. Lu has really captured me with this new series, and I cannot wait for the next book! All of her books are really fantastic, and this one is no different- I just wish I had the rest of the series now!
I loved this book!
***REVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WHAT A NERD GIRL SAYS*** There’s a quote on the back of the hardcover from Amie Kaufman that says that this is the best book from Marie Lu yet and I feel like that line completely nails the book. I have been reading Marie Lu since I picked up Legend over four years ago because a friend recommended it to me. I have always thought she was a fantastic writer and she proves it once again with this novel. I was hooked from page one, and that’s not a lie. It immediately felt like a mix of The Hunger Games meets World of Warcraft and Overwatch. It’s our world but not. It’s both incredibly familiar and so different. It reminded me a little bit of Ready Player One but I liked this one even more than I liked RPO, and I super loved RPO. The one thing I always admire from Marie is her ability to write diverse books without making it feel like its forced. It just works and I appreciate that from the beginning. She also has this ability to write such dynamic characters. I immediately loved Emika but I also adored Ash and Hammie and the rest of them. She makes each character seem so real and when the characters are real, the rest of the story falls so into place. What I love is how it feels like a mix of the things I mentioned above but it stands on its own. I get Hunger Game vibes in the crazy game world that Emika is brought into. The teams and the parties and the fans, it feels like the capitol in Panem except, you know, there aren’t a bunch of children going to die. Its captivating to have this huge, virtual game that people play all over the world, that they live in and that it becomes the life for many people. I love that the players get famous and have fans, its like it is now kind of with YouTube and Twitch. But I love how you see the characters deeper than that; this character uses this to pay her rent, some use it to support their family, some use it to escape what the reality they face. It’s so freakin’ interesting and I can understand why people would be immediately in love with Warcross and what its capable of. It’s so much more than the game. But besides the game, I love the relationship between Emika and her teammates, Emika and Hideo, Emika and the world. Its sort of her against the world, even when it seems like she’s working with others and her wit and intelligence and determination to take care of herself and get the job done for Hideo is amazing. She’s a total badass, fighting in the international championships in this game, getting better at it in order to blend in and get her team further along, but also hacking into others’ accounts and trying to sniff out a pretty legit hacker. I can’t wait for the next book. I honestly did not predict the ending that happened and I can’t wait to see more coming. I did have an inkling to who Zero, aka the hacker, was and I was right about that but the motives and everything that unfolds at the end was a complete surprise to me and damn, Marie Lu does that to me. I can’t wait to get to the new book because I’m guessing that there are a lot more surprises and action in store.
I don't know how our author does it - yet another amazingly different series - with a basis in something htat doesn't even resemble the other series. It's such a great next step. The world that we're in now is one in the future where virtual reality is a way to escape life and it's a necessary thing for Emi who's now 18, alone in the world (her father died and her mother left years ago) and she's in so much debt that she doesn't know what's going to happen next. As a bounty hunter, that's her way to make some money since she can't quite get a job after a hacking situation that got her arrested years ago. That same hacking is what's about to save her life. Warcross is the biggest thing in the world - a game that you can go pro playing and there's a world championship each year where you can see the best of the best play in a team situation. Emi hacks into the game just to get a high value power-up that she can sell on the black market and ends up hacking into the game itself - causing all sorts of problems. In doing that, her life changes forever. Her identity which she had worked so hard to keep secret is revealed to the whole world, she's not in the press, and she gets a call from Hideo Tanaka - the creator of the game - which she fears means her life is over. Quite the opposite. Hideo is an interesting character - 18, has demons and ghosts of his own, but the most successful man in the world through the development of his neurlink glasses which allow players to play the game and even see the entire world in VR. Its intense to think about actually. He brings Emi to Tokoyo becuase he needs her help and her ability to hack into the game shows that maybe she's the one who can do it. There's someone called 'Zero' who's been hacking into the game and collecting data, and Hideo needs to stop him since he doesn't know what the end game is. He hires Emi as a hacking bounty hunter of sorts (along with some others) who he will put into the tournament in the hopes that they can figure out who Zero is. Through the tournament, we get to meet a lot of characters that make the story so much better. Emi is put on the Pheonix's - a team made up of 3 experienced players and 2 wild cards - herself and DJ Ren. (a well known DJ). We start to see how close the friendships are with the players and how that really keeps things going. especially with the competitive nature of all the other teams. Where this story goes is an interesting journey. We don't know who to trust - and we don't know who's on what side. The friendships that grow are great and the secrets that live within Emi tear them apart. We see an interesting romance begin and it's something that you really root for since it humanizes a few people, but of course there's a lot at stake for that relationship to continue. When we learn the identity of Zero (through a glitch) (mind you i kind of figured this one out earlier on). we see that what we thought we knew of the hack is something completely different. The world at the end of the book is nothing like it was when we started and it's now up to a few to change the course of actions already set in motion in the hopes of saving everyone on the world. I'm so bummed that book 2 isn't out already because this was really amazing to read - especially from Marie Lu - but i'll be patient.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Young Readers Group for the opportunity to read and review Warcross by Marie Lu! Emi is a young bounty hunter that lives on her own. She desperately needs a bounty or she's going to be evicted from her apartment in less than three days. She's smart enough and quick enough to capture a criminal for the police but they give the money to someone else! She goes back to her apartment, despondent, and resigns herself to enjoying the last hours she has with a roof over her head. She hacks into Warcross and her image shows up in the internationally played and viewed game. This catches the eye of the Warcross creator, Hideo, who gives Emi a very well-paid job offer. I appreciate that Marie Lu lets readers know, through dialogue, the correct pronunciation of Hideo's name. I have heard many students/library patrons discuss name pronunciations in the past, unsure of how to say the name. The game background descriptions are detailed and aesthetic while the game is action-packed and the stakes raise higher and higher for the characters. 5 stars for a new sci-fi read from Marie Lu! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Professional gaming, female hacker, VRMMORPG, augmented reality, bounty hunter, Tokyo, Japan… I’m totally sold!!! This novel alone encompasses all the things I love and I know I have to get my hands on this novel once it’s released. Firstly, I would like to give a huge thank you to Penguin Group and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review. I love you Penguin Group! ❤ ❤ I’ve never read any of Marie Lu’s books before and Warcross is the 1st. Nonetheless, I’m completely blown away by the world, characters, and plot. This novel is amazing and utterly captivating. The descriptive texts immerse me into the world of Warcross and the shimmery landscape of Tokyo, Japan. As an avid gamer myself, Marie did a great job in explaining the mechanics of Warcross to the readers. I’m hooked right from the beginning. Usually, a 400+ page long novel will take me at least 2 days to finish but I finished Warcross in less than a day. I was literally devouring every single page in the novel. XD Emika is a lovable character. I love how she sticks to her beliefs and doesn’t get swayed easily by other people. I should really learn that from her… Though Emika is a really good hacker, she isn’t arrogant and knows her own limitation and boundaries. I like how Marie shows the characters traits and abilities through the use of action rather than words. We all know Emika is an excellent hacker and Hideo is a child prodigy, but it is the kind of hacking Emika does and the numerous tools which Hideo invents that show their true abilities and make readers appreciate their talents. The reason why I’m knocking off 1 star is that I already anticipated the twists even before they occur. As such, I’m not really mind blown by any of the twists. I shall not name any since I wouldn’t want to give away any spoilers. Even so, the major cliff hanger at the end did get me. Thank you, Marie Lu for writing such an amazing read and for getting me out of my dreaded reading slump. I love you! *insert a million hearts* This is by far, one of the best books I’ve read this year. I will definitely be re-reading Warcross again once I get my hands on the finished copy. I’m so ready for the 2nd novel in the duology. XD *psst* Someone please make Warcross a reality. I would love to play this game!
WARCROSS was an action-packed, imaginative, and gripping story that I fell in love with from the very first page. I loved the concept of the WARCROSS game itself, and I couldn't help thinking how much I wanted to be able to be a player myself while I was reading. The tech in this book is gorgeous and futuristic enough to feel fantastical yet not so far out there as to not feel plausible. The tournament is so much fun. The stakes are incredibly high, which makes the scenes where the players are in the game so intense and definitely gets the reader's blood pumping. The romance in this book absolutely sizzles. There is fantastic chemistry between the two characters and some seriously swoony moments. The villain is mysterious, brilliant, and definitely a match for the brilliant Emika. I think the ending of this one will get some mixed reviews, but I LOVED it. There's some fantastic twists that I certainly didn't see coming, and the ending was unlike anything I've seen done in YA fiction before. It doesn't fall in line with the usual tropes. It was original and definitely left me anxiously awaiting the next book.
Lu’s latest novel creates a cyberpunk future with a massively popular game and a high-stakes plot. Warcross is the titular game that becomes so popular because of the tech it uses and the escapism it provides, that there are World Championships for which millions of people tune in. Emika is a skilled hacker/bounty hunter who uses the ubiquitous connectivity of Warcross to hunt down her targets. She glitches into a game, and instantly get entered into the Championship. But her purpose for being there is as an undercover bounty hunter, who is seeking another hacker in the game. To understand Warcross, you have to understand how the tech works for it, and there in lies a fragment of the plot. The brain-computer interface can create endless virtual worlds, relying on neuronic impulses to create virtual images. There is also an augmented reality nature to it, as shown when the setting shifts to Tokyo, where it has been embraced fully. Emika’s experience in this futuristic Tokyo is enchanting and exciting, and if you think Tokyo is magical now, wait till you see what Lu imagines for it in this novel. Emika’s entry into the Championship is not a smooth transition, as instead she has to now learn the moves of professional players and how to work in a team. She has been mostly a lone wolf since the death of her father, and her background makes her street smart and wary. As her job is essentially spying, you are constantly on the lookout for who could be the culprit. As for her boss, Hideo Tanaka, she has idolized him since she was a preteen and he was a prodigy who created Warcross. Slowly, she gets to know him on a personal level and a romance ensues. But the nature of her job and the secrecy involved means they have to hide both sides of their relationship. Nevertheless, technology comes to their rescue and allows them for a deeper understanding and constant communication with each other. Now, as the novel is about the game, too, we do see a couple of games. The matches are immersive, and epic in nature, with entire worlds being played. Imagine Inception but with like a game of Capture the Flag. But besides the game sphere, there is also the seedy Dark Cross – the Dark Web of the game, where almost everything is available, for a price. Here is where she makes a few appearances, and it is scary how Emika’s emotions make you too anxious about the place. As I said, high stakes and that is literally your virtual self here. The plot takes her across vividly imagined fantasy worlds, and the futuristic augmented Tokyo and the dreary Dark Web, and the possibilities of tech and the implications of it. The plot weaves a hunt, a spy mission and gaming into a seamless story that entertains throughout. The pacing is good, relaxing in training sessions and other expositional parts but picking up when needed to skip ahead in the timeline. There are twists, and I could see a couple of them coming but there was a major one I did not even contemplate, even though looking back I realized how sneakily the author had placed the clues for it. The identity of Zero, though, poses a big question on the motives of the character itself, something which I am hoping will be clarified in future novels. In any case, this one is a must-read. and I already can’t wait for the next! Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Penguin Group, via Netgalley.
“Some people still say that Warcross is just a stupid game. Others say it’s a revolution. But for me and millions of others, it’s the only foolproof way to forget our troubles.” I’ll be honest, I’m not into video games. I never really have been. But I have all the faith in Marie Lu, so I was optimistic going into this. I can tell you it did not disappoint me. We follow bounty hunter and hacker Emika Chen as she’s swept into the futuristic virtual world of Warcross to spy on the championship tournament and stop a major security threat. Warcross is a vibrant high-octane adventure story that fully immerses you into this virtual world. Things I Liked Emika Chen is my rainbow haired badass love. She is so amazing and I love her with all that I am. She is so smart and capable. She’s an amazing hacker and analyst and uses her skills to help other people and herself. She was such a fantastic MC, really easy to connect to and root for. Emika and Hideo were such cuties! Emika has idolized Hideo Tanaka, Warcross’ illustrious creator, for years, but their romance never really felt instalove-y or forced. They have great chemistry and banter and I like them a lot. Not being a big gamer, I wasn’t sure how I would connect to the actual world of Warcross, but it was FANTASTIC. The world is so vibrant and clear, All of the futuristic elements work and are integrated into the story and society perfectly. The virtual reality is lush and interactive with the character’s daily lives. I also really liked the thriller elements we get from the Dark World, Warcross’ seedy underbelly. It added some great tension and acted as a physical threat, along with the security threat she was hired to find. The game of Warcross itself was so captivating. I loved that it was a team game and each player specialized in a different role. It was like a massive VR game of capture the flag and I was so here for it. I liked all of Emi’s teammates and the interactions and can’t wait to see more of them. Things I Didn’t Like I feel like the other bounty hunters were basically useless in the story.. Emika kinda seemed infallible compared to the other bounty hunters, who were never really mentioned. They didn’t add nothing. I got a little less invested in certain characters as the story progressed. I felt like they became more fanatical and irrational - which is not a favorable combination for me personally. I could understand the intent behind their actions, but were a little much. I still liked the character, but I started to care about them less. Warcross is an engaging story. It’s a surprising lesson in trust and ethics. We see the divide between what we are capable of and what we should do. There’s something so human in this virtual world that makes the story to captivating. It’s such a fantastic read and I recommend it to all science fiction fans out there. Or just anyone who wants to read a fantastic book. I received a copy of the book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change.