A Cyberpunk Cinderella Story: Warcross by Marie Lu

A Cyberpunk Cinderella Story: Warcross by Marie Lu

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Emika Chen needs to raise $3,450 in the next 72 hours, or she’ll be evicted from her apartment. What with her wicked hacking skillz, she ought to be acing computer science classes in college, but she dropped out of school when her dad died. Saddled by his debts and her own criminal record, she can’t get a job with a corporation, so she works as a bounty hunter. Her specialty lies in capturing players in the world’s most famous video game, Warcross, who have large gambling debts. The prodigy who created the game, Hideo Tanaka, is her celebrity crush.

When the police announce a $5,000 bounty on a drug dealer, Emika’s determined to nab him. Sure enough, she tracks him downtown on her electric skateboard, alerts the cops to his location, chases him down, and stuns him. She’s got her knee pressed into his back while he cries into the ground when the police arrive.

But they don’t give her the bounty. On a technicality, it goes to someone who had messaged them sooner than she did.

She slinks home to find her lazy roommate playing Warcross, oblivious to the eviction notice on their door. Warcross is Emika’s only escape, so she puts on her own virtual reality glasses to watch the Warcross Opening Ceremony, an all-star exhibition match beamed to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

But she still needs to raise that money in a hurry. So when a valuable “power-up” appears during the game, she can’t resist. She recently discovered a hack that could allow her to steal it, even as an invisible audience member.

She’s never tried such a ballsy hack before. She doesn’t even know if it will really work. But the shiny red power-up is probably worth $15,000.

She knows she shouldn’t try it. What if she gets caught? But all that money… It would resolve her debts. So she grabs the bloodred power-up right before a player in the game is going to use it.

But the second she steals the power-up, she’s no longer invisible. The other players, as well as hundreds of millions of viewers, stare at her in shock.

A referee blows the whistle and declares a time out. Emika’s screen goes black as she’s kicked out of the game. When she checks her inventory, the valuable power-up has been deleted.

This is bad. Very bad. Not only did she lose the goods, but everyone saw what she tried to do. She already has a criminal record. What kind of prison time is she going to do now?

That’s when Hideo Tanaka calls. He wants to meet her.

Originally released by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 2017 and reprinted by Speak in June 2018, Marie Lu’s novel made the New York Times bestseller list for YA Hardcover for 16 weeks. Tightly plotted, fast paced and downright irresistible, Warcross stands on the shoulders of classic cyberpunk from the 1990s. As Lu introduced us to our badass skateboarding heroine, the opening sequence to Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash came to mind. Her immersive virtual reality landscapes recall the ever-changing arenas of The Hunger Games, and her seedy Dark World where criminals gather catapulted me back into Melissa Scott’s Trouble and Her Friends. Fans of Ready Player One will also dig it.

But Warcross isn’t just great entertainment. It also asks readers to think about our reliance on the Internet and demonstrates how technology can compromise users’ freedom and privacy.

Warcross was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on September 12, 2017, priced at $18.99 in hardcover, $10.99 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. To read an excerpt, point your browser here. You’ve got a little time to read it before the sequel, Wildcard, comes out on September 18, 2018.

Elizabeth Galewski is the author of The Wish-Granting Jewel, a fantasy novel, and Butterfly Valley, a tale of travel and transformation based on true events. To learn more, please visit her official author’s website at www.elizabethgalewski.com.

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What bizarre covers, they don’t really communicate anything…

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