Synopsis: 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.
A BRIEF ANNOUNCEMENT.
Hello friends I am here.
I think I am back.
For me, “back” means posting extremely irregularly, with no schedule, occasionally going without posting sans explanation for days or even weeks at at time, so it is quite easy for me to say “I think I am back.”
But I think I am.
Let’s do an unpopular opinion!
I have a really important question.
Like, everything I say is really important, and therefore every question I ask is really important, but this is especially so. It is integral to my understanding of the world around me, and also books and also Goodreads.
Is there a single person who gave this book over 3 stars and has read Ready Player One?
Seriously. This book is a C-, young adult, romance-y, boring, poorly-built version of Ready Player One. With better diversity.
I was always worried about this book literally just straight up being Ready Player One. Just kidding that is completely a lie. I was always super full-on hoping this book was going to be an absolute imitation of that one, because that book is amazing and I miss it all the time and I would like every book I read to be just like it please and thanks.
What I should have been worried about, and am now furious over (if furious means “just vaguely disappointed because I have hated so many books I’ve been excited for that an overwhelming numbness has taken over what used to be the anger factory that is my emotions”), is that this book would be a lesser, watered-down, poorly done version of that book.
I will back up for a moment.
Warcross takes place in the future. (How quaint.) There’s an augmented reality gaming type deal (wish I could tell you more) called Warcross (surprise! Title!). Everybody is super into it. To play, you wear a pair of glasses that overlay the interface into your actual brain.
If this sounds at all familiar, you have probably encountered the synopsis of a lil book called Ready Player One at some point or another.
Specifically, Warcross (book not game) is about this gal named Emika, who is a bounty hunter in New York City. This should be cool, and is instead something we hear about for roughly 5 pages. To compare, we hear exponentially more about Emika’s ramen stash (she tells us how many boxes she has seemingly upwards of one thousand times), her urine-scented hovel of an apartment building, and her rainbow hair.
WE ARE REMINDED SO CONSTANTLY THAT EMIKA HAS RAINBOW HAIR THAT I THINK THE AUTHOR MUST HAVE CONSCIOUSLY CHOSEN TO INSERT A DESCRIPTION OF IT EVERY TIME SHE WONDERED WHETHER EMIKA SHOULD HAVE A SINGLE PERSONALITY TRAIT. Just, Nah. She doesn’t need both a personality AND cool hair. How rad can one person be?
There’s that comforting burn of anger! You guys. We’re doing it.
Okay. So on top of being a bounty hunter, rainbow-haired, AND ramen-possessing (what a jack of all trades), Emika is also totally amazing at all things computer-related. She hacks! (We have no idea what goes into hacking beyond the oft-used description, I pulled up a window and typed a few lines of code, but sure!) She is really good at Warcross! (We only get one actual scene of an actual game of Warcross, but yeah, okay!) She can try to steal an expensive power-up from an internationally-broadcast game watched by hundreds of millions of people and instead just broadcast her image to all of them! (I don’t get why this is impressive rather than a somewhat sloppy and definitely ill-advised attempt at theft, but sounds good!)
Emika is so talented and brilliant and rainbow-haired that she is hired by Hideo, the young, dashing, unbelievably boring creator of Warcross. Now, she’s a bounty hunter who is also a hacker who is also playing in the international tournament of an augmented reality game! Doesn’t that sound interesting?
Don’t get excited. It is not interesting.
Unless your idea of interesting is the two most boring people in the mapped universe falling gushily in love with each other, except worse. Because Emika constantly has to sneak in order to squeeze in more of these gazing-into-each-other’s-Warcross-lens-wearing-eyes moments.
It is stressful to read about. It is also a constant reminder that she is physically exiting what could be an interesting plotline in favor of horrific, cavity-inducing romance over and over. And over. And over. And over again.
I really do not even understand what Warcross is. It’s called a game a lot, but it seems like it might be a version of reality wherein gaming is an option? I don’t know how often the characters of this book are in-game versus in life. I don’t know what the in-life body looks like while the brain is in-game. I thought that Emika was physically traveling to all these places, but at one point towards the end it’s just like, “The screen faded to black and I was back in my hotel room,” and I was all, WAIT WAS SHE IN HER HOTEL ROOM THE WHOLE TIME?
I have no answers. Because the world-building in this book is terrible.
Even if I give the author the benefit of the doubt and say she was trying to seamlessly weave in the world-building (admirable!), there is still no excuse for this. Warcross is so confusing that it hurts my brain. Not because it is a really complicated world, but because it is NEVER EXPLAINED. I don’t get how I could like this setting, because I don’t know what it is.
Which leads me back to the question that started this review. HAVE YOU GUYS NOT READ READY PLAYER ONE? If you had, there is no way you would be so heavy into this game. (IS IT A GAME.) It is millennia behind the description and comprehensibility and interesting-ness of the sometimes-game of that book. (SEE? I KNOW IT’S A SOMETIMES-GAME.)
So we’ve covered the crap world-building. We’ve covered the awful romance, although I could scream about that for 8 more pages and am merely rescuing you from the fate of hearing me read about it. What else, what else.
Ah, yes! This book is so boring that it makes watching paint dry seem like a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It makes BBC miniseries focusing on the vie quotidienne of the 19th century seem concerningly wild. It makes Hideo seem like a pre-engagement Prince Harry. Like, back when he used to be naked all the time, and in Las Vegas and stuff.
This book is non-online clickbait. It pulls you in with the talk of virtual reality, and gaming, and the future, and sci-fi, and bounty hunters, and all that fun stuff, and then it spends the entirety of its 368 pages finding new creative ways to beat all of that with rocks and spears and sharp things until it is so dry your eyes will stream silent tears.
For example. Even though this book allegedly takes place over the course of a massive, huge-deal, très competitive Warcross tournament that is so blindingly entertaining that hundreds of millions of people tune in for what is cumulatively dozens of hours of watching other people play video games, WE ONLY TRULY SEE ONE ACTUAL TYPICAL GAME.
This is the best scene in the book, by far, yes, but it is roughly 20 pages of what I thought all 368 would be. This scene doesn’t even come until, like, the halfway point. And from there until the end, it’s all boring, nondescriptive insertions of Emika doing stuff that is not as cool as Warcross, and romance. And more romance. And more romance.
Also the “big reveals” of this book are either a) revealed in the very beginning (I was actually like, There’s no way, she’ll find out it’s someone else, it’s way too early – but nope) or dropped like huge bombs and then completely left there.
You guys! This book is so bad.
That being said, I’ll almost definitely read the next one.
Bottom line: Just…just do yourself a favor and read Ready Player One instead.