Warcross by Marie Lu | Audiobook Review

Publisher: Putnam/Listening Library
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Warcross #1
Read by Nancy Wu
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.

I loved Marie Lu's Legend series and I had a feeling I'm going to love her Warcross series just as much. I was right! I inhaled read listened to Warcross on audio in two days and now I am bemoaning the fact that I have to wait over a year for book 2. I don't think another book can top Warcross as the most exciting, thrilling novel I've read this year.
Plot. Basically, Warcross is about a girl named Emika Chen who, through a chain of events, found herself working for Hideo Tanaka, the creator of the most high tech virtual reality glasses and the most popular virtual reality game, Warcross--a worldwide obsession. Someone (dubbed "Zero") is trying to disrupt the Championship game to cause all kinds of havoc, and who better to ferret out the hacker than the girl who was successfully hacked her way into the game herself. In order to figure out who Zero was and what he was up to, Emika posed as one of the Championship players and quickly becomes a worldwide celebrity. But, Zero was no ordinary hacker and there may be a deeper, more sinister conspiracy at play than a simple security breach.

There were several twists and turns in the story that I saw coming, like the link between Hideo and Zero. However, there was a twist in the end that I didn't quite see coming, but it shouldn't have surprised me. That twist turned the story and brought up discussions about the advancement of technology and privacy that I'm looking forward to being explored in the next book. Overall, I found the plot to be exciting, excellently paced, and the non-stop action compelled me to keep listening a lot longer than I planned to.

Writing. When I first started listening Warcross, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I didn't find the first couple chapters that interesting. However, once Emika was in Tokyo (around the fourth chapter if I remember correctly), I couldn't stop reading. The game scenes were exhilarating and Lu had a knack for writing action scenes, which was evident in her debut series Legend, but even more so here in Warcross. Amidst all the action, we also got some flashbacks of Emika and her dad that were so bittersweet and sometimes heartbreaking. Overall, once you get past the first few chapters, you're going to want to just keep reading all the way to the end. Great writing, fantastic pacing, and extremely readable and immersive.

Characters. I liked all of the characters in Warcross. Emika is your typical bad-ass and resilient YA heroine, but I love that she's also a hacker and a computer genius. There's a push nowadays in schools for girls to learn how to code and take part in computer science programs and here's Emika, a girl, who can dissect a computer program and code like nobody's business. She's a hacker trying to catch a hacker--how cool is she! I also liked the mysterious Hideo Tanaka, but I never fully trusted him thanks to the Warcross tagline "Player, hunter, hacker, pawn." We know right away that Emika is the first three words in the tagline, but the word "pawn" gave me pause because Emika worked for Hideo so she's his pawn? Like, he's using her for something? But, Hideo was all kinds of sweet, too, and so swoon-worthy. He guards his privacy and his personal life to a fault, but we see him opening up to Emika and through his actions we know (even though everything was told through Emika's first person POV) that he genuinely like, liked her. But that word pawn in the tagline kept me from fully trusting him. Ugh. Whoever came up with that tagline, thanks a lot. 😑

I really liked the secondary characters too, especially the friends Emika made (Asher, Roshan and Hammie) at the championship. I'm hoping they'll play bigger roles in the next book because they were an interesting and diverse lot. That's another thing I loved about Warcross: how diverse it was. We have a disabled character, gay characters, and characters of different ethnic backgrounds and it was amazing.

World-building. Warcross is set in the future, but it wasn't so futuristic that it was unrecognizable. It felt like our present time but with more sophisticated technology especially in terms of virtual reality. The story mostly took place in Tokyo and the lights and sounds--Marie Lu did an amazing job describing futuristic Tokyo because I was transported there and I could clearly imagine it in my mind.

Besides the city the characters were physically in, there's also Warcross the game that they enter virtually. The players are transported in a virtual arena (which sort of reminds me of the Hunger Games arena) especially designed for the competition and must face different obstacles as well as the opposing team. Each player have a specific role and the leader has a jewel suspended above his/her head that the other team must capture to win the game. Warcross was so COOL! I don't even play video games (unless phone app games count) and I want to play Warcross.

Audiobook narration. Nancy Wu narrated the audiobook and I thought her performance was overall excellent. If I have to say one negative thing about it, it's that she sounds like an older adult when Emika was supposed to be 18 years old. But, after I got used to her voice it wasn't a big deal. I mentioned that the cast of characters are very diverse and came from different parts of the world, and Ms. Wu did an excellent job with all the different voices and accents of the characters. Ms. Wu's performance definitely added to my overall enjoyment of the story.

Final thoughts. I am so excited for book 2! I can't wait to see the direction the story will go because there were some shocking revelations in the end. I am eager to see what Emika will do next and how her relationship with Hideo will continue with the bombshell in the end. I know Zero will also play a bigger part in the next book and I am looking forward to learning more about him and having my questions answered. Overall, Warcross is an excellent start to Marie Lu's futuristic sci-fi series. Highly recommended!

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