My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this book as a participant in a blog tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads. Special thanks to the publisher for giving me pre-approved access to an e-galley of this book on Edelweiss.
Everything is science fiction until someone makes it science fact. —Hideo
I already had the chance to read Warcross last May, but the immense hype surrounding it rendered me hesitant. For four freakin months. Eventually, what pushed me to read it was my lingering fondness for Legend, one of the author’s previous works. I had also been wanting to rekindle my interest in sci-fi, so reading this book seemed like a good way to reach my goal. And now that I’ve finished it, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Oh well, it’s good to be a part of the minority every now and then.
Even before its publication, people have already been comparing Warcross to Sword Art Online, a very beloved anime series. Plot-wise, the comparison is somehow justified. Warcross also follows a diverse cast of characters who live in a nearly utopian world that prizes virtual reality. Furthermore, like SAO, the plot of this book contains equal portions of action, mystery, and romance. Emika Chen, the heroine, works as a bounty hunter for Hideo Tanaka, the ingenious creator of a revolutionary video game called Warcross. The latter is being hacked by an unknown, malevolent figure, and Emika tries to catch the villain whenever she isn’t busy falling for Hideo.
I loved the first half of Warcross because it was practically popcorn for me, the bookish gamer. In a way, it seemed that I was rereading Morgan Rhodes’s Falling Kingdoms because once again, I felt like I was playing a JRPG. The virtual battles were very exciting and deliciously tactical, and I could vividly imagine the various places where they were held. When Final Fantasy was briefly mentioned in the book, I grinned from ear to ear. Marie Lu used to work in the gaming industry, so I was so happy to see her apply that “nerdiness” in her book. In retrospect, it effectively showed that video games and literature are not worlds apart. After all, video games, especially RPGs, are stories in and of themselves.
I wasn’t on the lookout for “triggering content” such as racism, sexism, or ableism. However, I was intrigued by the diversity in this book. The characters came from different corners of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. One of the protagonists was paraplegic, and then it was implied that two of them weren’t straight. I wanted to give Marie Lu a pat on the back for heeding the YA community’s plea for more diversity.
Unfortunately, my buzz was killed by Emika and Hideo’s relationship. I was not thrilled because the emotional connection that started it all was so overrated, I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes. I did not like that Emika and Hideo fell for each other simply because both of them understood what it felt like to lose a loved one. Their mutual physical attraction wasn’t a plausible factor, either. It reeked of instalove, and I wasn’t there for it. Huhu. Let us all fall in love with Hideo, the sexy, tortured soul. The heck. I would’ve enjoyed this book so much more without the romance. Love can be so unnecessary sometimes, particularly in YA. If you don’t want me to blame the book, then I’ll blame the genre. LOL. But seriously, as far as I’m concerned, Emika and Hideo aren’t a match made in Heaven. In fact, in light of the book’s ending, I suppose the author would agree with me. Wahahaha!
The second catalyst behind my relatively low rating was the book’s predictable content. I totally knew the identity of the villain chapters before it was disclosed! If I could attach a selfie of me sticking out my tongue, I would. I wonder what I could’ve done to prevent myself from being so…jaded? Oh, I want to make an “educated prediction” before the sequel comes out someday: Emika is gonna end up with Zero. If I’m wrong, I’ll give the sequel a high rating! Hahaha plus points for defied expectations. To be fair, I was a little surprised by the second plot twist, which had a dystopian undertone. I wasn’t a fan of this certain character, but my feelings might change in the future.
In its totality, Warcross was entertaining at its best and disappointing at its worst. I loved the fantastic and creative world-building, but the characters and plot points were generally lackluster; they weren’t anything that I hadn’t seen before. Now, I really want to reread the Legend trilogy just to see if I would love it as much as I did when I was in college. If you haven’t read Warcross, I guess you’re not missing half of your life. Please don’t let the hype get to you. Heck, don’t judge any book by the hype surrounding it.