Thursday, October 11, 2018

#Review/Excerpt - Wildcard by Marie Lu #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Warcross (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: GP Putnam Sons
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Return to the immersive, action-packed world of Warcross in this thrilling sequel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems—and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

In this explosive sequel to the New York Times bestselling Warcross, Marie Lu delivers an addictive finale that will hold you captive till the very last page.

“That's the difference between the real and the virtual. Reality is where you can lose the ones you love. Reality is the place where you can feel the cracks in your heart.” 

Wildcard is the second part of Marie Lu's Warcross Duology. The story pics up right where the previous book ended. Wildcard ups the ante with tons of adrenaline as Emika Chen is drawn deeper into the dark world of the Blackcoats, all the while torn between her attraction to Hideo Tanaka and her desire to take him down. Filled with twists that will keep readers guessing at every turn, this gripping finale drops us back onto the neon-lit streets of Tokyo as Emika races against the clock to stop Hideo’s plans.

Emika survived the Warcross tournament, but ended up getting kicked from her team the Phoenix Riders. If you haven't read the first book, you definitely MUST read it before jumping in feet first with this story. Every single thing is connected. Emika's teammate's (Asher, Hammie, & Roshan) haven't turned their back on her. In fact, I dare say they are thick as thieves and are with her almost every step of the way. That goes for Tremaine from the Demon Brigade and a bounty hunter just like Emika.

While Emika is still trying to close up loose ends in regards to Hideo's Neurolink, she is drawn into Zero's orbit. Even though Zero nearly destroyed Emika and her team, they have one thing in common. Stopping Hideo's Neurolink from taking over the world completely. I'm not going to be bashful when I say this was the turning point for the entire series for me as well as the biggest mistake she has made to this point. Emika knows that if she doesn't find a way to stop the Neurolink upgrade in 8 days, all will be lost, including her own free will. 

As the story progresses, Emika must put her trust in some people who call themselves Blackcoats. This means she gets to meet Zero for the first time, while being saved by a trained assassin (Jax Taylor) who is probably the most interesting character in the entire book. That would include Emika due to the fact that she, Jax, holds a whole lot of information to fill in the blanks. Emika life is anything but boring, especially when she learns of a huge bounty posted on the Dark Web. One of my negatives is how ultimately bland Emika tends to be in this story. 

She doesn't react quickly enough to situations, and later has to rely on others which she truly hates to do. There is the lack of excitement that I had for the first novel knowing we were actually going to have a protagonist be part of a world wide phenomenon called WarCross which brings the best VR players in the world to one place. Even though there is a rematch between the teams that met in the finals, there was nothing that involved Emika since she is no longer on the team. 

You could honestly say that the author is sending a message to readers about how dangerous technology can be if there is no oversight. Kind of like Google in helping the Chinese government suppress those living in China from having access to information that we, in the US, take for granted. The question has become how far will Google go to help China with its dissenters? I won't get political, but the same has come out about Google silencing former employees who expressed free speech.

For those wondering, nope, you will never guess the ending. Not in a million years would I have seen how the author would wrap up her series. Mind blown.
Best Quote of the Entire Book:

“Every problem has a solution. But after every solution, there's a new problem to tackle, some new challenge to take on. You don't stop after you solve one thing You keep going, you find a new way and a new path, try to do better and create better. tearing something down isn't the end; doing something great, or better, something right, is. Or maybe there isn't such a thing as an end goal at all. You accomplish something, and then you shift, ready to accomplish the next. You keep solving one problem after another until you change the world.” 


Eight Days until the Warcross Closing Ceremony 

Someone is watching me.
I can feel it—the eerie sensation of being followed, an invisible gaze locked on my back. It prickles my skin, and as I make my way through Tokyo’s rain-soaked streets to meet up with the Phoenix Riders, I keep looking over my shoulder. People hurry by in a steady stream of colorful umbrellas and business suits, heels and oversize coats. I can’t stop imagining their downcast faces all turned in my direction, no matter which way I go.
Maybe it’s the paranoia that comes with years of being a bounty hunter. You’re on a crowded street, I tell myself. No one’s following you.
It’s been three days since Hideo’s algorithm was triggered. Technically, the world should now be the safest it’s ever been. Every single person who has used the new Henka Games contact lenses—even just once—should now be completely under Hideo’s control, rendered unable to break the law or harm another person.
Only the few who still use the beta lenses, like me, are unaffected.
So, in theory, I shouldn’t be worried about someone following me. The algorithm won’t let them do anything to hurt me.
But even as I think this, I slow down to stare at the long line wrapping around a local police station. There must be hundreds of people. They’re all turning themselves in to the authorities for anything and everything unlawful they’ve ever done, from unpaid parking tickets to petty theft—even murder. It’s been like this for the past three days.
My attention shifts to a police barricade at the end of the street. They’re directing us to detour down a different block. Ambulance lights flash against the walls, illuminating a covered gurney being lifted into the vehicle. I only need to catch a glimpse of officers pointing up at the roof of a nearby building before I figure out what occurred here. Another criminal must have jumped to their death. Suicides like this have been peppering the news.
And I helped make all of this happen.
I swallow my unease and turn away. There’s a subtle but significant blankness in everyone’s eyes. They don’t know an artificial hand is inside their minds, bending their free will.
Hideo’s hand.
The reminder is enough to make me pause in the middle of the street and close my eyes. My fists clench and unclench, even as my heart lurches at his name. I’m such an idiot.
How can the thought of him fill me with disgust and desire at the same time? How can I stare in horror at this line of people waiting in the rain outside a police station—but still blush at my dream of being in Hideo’s bed, running my hands along his back?
We’re over. Forget him. I open my eyes again and continue on, trying to contain the anger beating in my chest.
By the time I duck into the heated halls of a Shinjuku shopping center, rain is coming down in wavy sheets, smearing the reflections of neon lights against the slick pavement.
Not that the storm is stopping preparations for the upcoming Warcross closing ceremony, which will mark the end of this year’s games. With my beta lenses on, I can see the roads and sidewalks color-coded in hues of scarlet and gold. Each Tokyo district is highlighted like this right now, the streets shaded the colors of the most popular team in that neighborhood. Overhead, a lavish display of virtual fireworks is going off, piercing the dark sky with bursts of colored light. Shinjuku district’s favorite team is the Phoenix Riders, so the fireworks here are currently forming the shape of a rising phoenix, arching its flaming neck in a cry of victory.
Every day over the next week or so, the top ten players of this year’s championships will be announced worldwide after a vote by all Warcross fans. Those ten players will compete in a final, all-star tournament during the closing ceremony, and then spend a year as the biggest celebrities in the world before they play again next spring, in the opening ceremony’s game. Like the one I once hacked into and disrupted, that upended my entire life and landed me here.
People on the streets are proudly dressed up as their top-ten vote this year. I see a few Asher lookalikes sporting his outfit from our championship game in the White World; someone’s decked out as Jena, another as Roshan. Still others are arguing heatedly about the Final. There had obviously been a cheat—power-ups that shouldn’t have been in play.
Of course, I had done that.
I adjust my face mask, letting my rainbow hair tumble out from underneath my red raincoat’s hood. My rain boots squelch against the sidewalk. I have a randomized virtual face laid over my own, so at least people who are wearing their NeuroLink glasses or contacts will look at me and see a complete stranger. For the rare person who isn’t, the face mask should cover enough to make me blend in with everyone else wearing masks on the street.
Sugoi!” someone passing me exclaims, and when I turn, I see a pair of wide-eyed girls grinning at my hair. Their Japanese words translate into English in my view. “Wow! Good Emika Chen costume!”
They make a gesture like they want to take a photo of me, and I play along, putting up my hands in V-for-victory signs. Are you both under Hideo’s control, too? I wonder.
The girls bob their heads in thanks and move along. I adjust my electric skateboard strapped over my shoulder. It’s a good temporary disguise, pretending to be myself, but for someone used to stalking others, I still feel weirdly exposed.

Emi! Almost here?

Hammie’s message appears before me as translucent white text, cutting through my tension. I smile instinctively and quicken my steps.


It would’ve been easier, you know, if you’d just come with us.

I cast a glance over my shoulder again. It would’ve definitely been easier—but the last time I stayed in the same space as my teammates, Zero nearly killed us in an explosion.

I’m not an official Rider anymore. People would ask questions if they saw us heading out as a group tonight.

But you’d be safer if you did.

It’s safer if I didn’t.

I can practically hear her sigh. She sends the address of the bar again.

See you soon.

I pass through the mall and out the other side. Here, the colorful blocks of Shinjuku shift into the seedy streets of Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red-light district. I tense my shoulders. It’s not an unsafe area—certainly not compared to where I came from in New York—but the walls are covered with glowing screens featuring the services of beautiful girls and handsome, spiky-haired boys, along with shadier banners I don’t want to understand.
Virtual models dressed in scanty outfits stand outside bars, beckoning visitors to enter. They ignore me when they realize my profile marks me as a foreigner and turn their attention to the more lucrative Japanese locals navigating the streets.
Still, I pick up my pace. No red-light district in the world is safe.
I duck into a narrow street on the border of Kabukicho. Piss Alley, so this cluster of little walkways is called. The Riders picked it for tonight because it’s closed to tourists during the Warcross championship season. Scowling bodyguards in suits stand at the entrances and exits of the alleys, shooing away curious passersby.
I take down my disguise for a second so they can see my real identity. One bodyguard bows his head and lets me in.
Both sides of the alleys are lined with tiny sake bars and yakitori stands. Through each of their fogged glass doors, I can see the backs of other teams huddled in front of smoking grills, arguing loudly at virtual projections on the walls showing interviews with players. The scent of fresh rain mixes with aromas of garlic, miso, and fried meat.
I pull off my raincoat, shake it out, and fold it inside out into my backpack. Then I head to the last stall. This bar is a little bigger than the others, facing a quiet alley blocked off on either side. Its doorway is lit by a row of cheery red lanterns, and men in suits stand in strategic positions around it. One of them notices me and moves aside, ushering me forward.
I walk under the lanterns and enter through the sliding glass door. A curtain of warm air envelops me.

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