Series: Warcross #1
Published by Penguin Random House on September 12th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Diversity
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Barnes & Noble
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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 players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing 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.
Every gamer’s dream is being able to actually experience the game you are playing. To actually fully immerse yourself into the game through virtual reality. Warcross explores a world where this is possible, where the gaming elite compete in real life tournaments using advanced technology. As a gamer, I’ve been highly anticipating Warcross since it was announced, and I’m happy to say that it met my expectations…but not without a few issues.
Emika Chen is a Chinese-American bounty hunter and hacker genius who captures illegal gamblers for money. She’s also poverty stricken, struggling to make ends meet and about to be kicked out of her apartment. Bounty hunting is how she makes money for a living, so she can’t help but hack into an international, highly publicised Warcross tournament…and capture the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the creator of the game. This is how she becomes a spy.
I immediately warmed to Emika, as someone who is introverted, has fought her way to the top but still manages to stay grounded. She’s clearly talented, but she’s stayed under the radar all this time. She’s also incredibly noble, able to protect those who aren’t as gifted as her, but on the other hand… she’s also dealing with her own demons. I loved her conflicted narrative and how she had to convincingly play two sides to achieve her goal. With her exposure to the DarkNet, the need to lie and spy, she operated between different shades of morality, which was fascinating.
Hideo Tanaka was also a fascinating character, the altruistic, intelligent, super genius behind Warcross. Usually ice cold towards his employees, it was interesting how Emika melted his cool heart. Especially upon seeing her for the first time. He buys her everything, pays off all her bills, employs her in the most high profile case of all time…and he’s also her boss. Their relationship felt quite imbalanced and made me quite uncomfortable at times, especially with the insta-love between CEO and employee.
It’s a second home, this place where everyone speaks my language, and where those who might otherwise be powerless in real life can now be incredibly powerful.
While I loved the super stylised world of Tokyo and the Warcross tournaments, I wasn’t too clear on how the game was actually played. Even as a gamer, I struggled to picture why such a simplistic game would be such a worldwide phenomenon. Basically you’re meant to capture the other team’s artifacts within a certain amount of time, there’s role classes and the platform can be manipulated. The closest game I could think of was Super Smash Bros, but I would’ve liked more explanation on the rules and the gameplay.
The other characters in the book, while diverse, also weren’t developed as well as Emika and Hideo. While they had interesting back stories and relationships with one another, Emika’s limited interaction with them also limited my feelings towards them. There were also a few scenes that were quite cringe worthy and predictable, as Emika let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding twice in the book and also the twists at the end.
With a relatable heroine, virtual reality, advanced technology and the futuristic Japanese setting, I enjoyed Warcross as a whole and the gaming world that it offered. A few things prevented me from fully being immersed in the book, like the romance, the game itself and some of the character motivations. Overall, Warcross was an adrenaline rush from cover to cover, set in a virtual reality future that perhaps isn’t too far from happening.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy!
Warcross is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$24.99.