Scifi books can be really hit or miss for me – I’m not into the fantasy-leaning ones; I tend to enjoy stories that have a ‘set in the not so distant future’ feel to them. Naturally, Warcross held a lot of appeal to me. The description of this book gives off a lot of Ready Player One vibes (one of my favorite books of all time) – a virtual world where people spend the majority of their time at risk? It certainly shares at least some of the same themes and settings. The high level concept is about all the two novels have in common – where Ready Player One is an excellent novel with near masterful atmosphere and a highly entertaining plot, Warcross skips building the world and dives into a very cliche and predictable story.
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.
Here’s what I’ll say about the idea and setting for the story: it had a lot of potential. I am huge tech geek and was super into the premise of an elite VR gaming tournament. Unfortunately for me (as someone who is relatively well informed in the world of tech) every time a piece of the technology was explained, I was thrown off from the plot. Also, the description and implied level of difficulty of the hacking characters did in the book were laughably bad. A character would decide they wanted to change something in a multi-billion dollar game and would then have no issue doing so. I wish it had been more realistic in the challenges of hacking. It’s super nitpicky of me to say, but the technical explanations were almost laughably farfetched. I get that it’s sci-fi, but I would have appreciated a bit more scientific obfuscation to mask the logical reaches being made. Fortunately, this technical long reaches shouldn’t bother most readers.
As I said before – the plot is pretty by the numbers YA sci-fi. It’s a little too easy to spot the real antagonist a mile away – it’s also really simple to figure out Zero’s true identity. That being said, this book shines in its fight scenes. The Warcross tournament games were some of the best written fighting and action sequences I’ve read in a long time. They read like a blockbuster action film scene – you almost feel like you’re the one in the battle. And luckily, there are plenty of battles to be had in this book – they’re definitely what kept the book entertaining.
The only standout character in this book was Emika. She had a well fleshed out backstory and complex motives behind her actions. Her emotions felt genuine and authentic and she grew as the story progressed. Hideo was an alright character – though I never bought him as the charming, reclusive billionaire. He has a bit of a manipulative and sinister air to him – he’s clearly used to getting his way all the time. The chemistry and relationship between him and Emika felt a bit forced. The rest of the secondary characters were pretty one dimensional and didn’t really have secondary plot lines or focus on them.
All that being said, Warcross isn’t a bad book. It suffers from a lack of world building and falls into the stereotypical YA plotline pitfalls – but it’s still a fun one time read. If you’re into gaming or role playing games, you might enjoy this book. It’s a park-your-brain-at-the-door kind of affair – perfect for reading on a beach or between heavier books. 3/5.