Wildcard is the sequel to Marie Lu’s Warcross, so spoilers as always in this one-paragraph synopsis. It was revealed that the inventor of the Neurolink, Hideo Tanaka, had a plan to install this special program into the glasses that 90% of the world is connected to wholeheartedly. A program that measures your emotions for when you want to do something bad and prevents you from doing it. Our hero, Emika Chen, who was fooled into doing this task seemingly to stop an outside hacker named Zero from taking over the Neurolink (more on him in a sec), is against this because of the memory of her performing a crime to get back at school bullies who embarrassed an innocent classmate of hers. Well, now Emika is off the team of the Phoenix Riders, and the new system is in. And criminals are turning themselves in, some even jumping off of buildings, but Emika’s old beta lenses still aren’t installed with the gift, and neither are her partners, so she still may have a chance to perform a permanent undo. But Zero, has turned out to be Hideo’s long lost brother, Sasuke Tanaka. Why is he who he is? What happened to him all those years ago? Enter the wildcard.
The introduction of the book explains how some criminals are turning themselves in for an unknown reason, and I was surprised that’s how it began. I thought Hideo putting the link in to the whole world would be the climax of this book and it still kind of is, but here we have an actual taste of this new utopian world wrapped in rubbish. I liked that idea. Not many books have an antagonist where we get to see his plan being carried out by the minute at the very start.
And my favourite thing about the original Warcross was how it mixed inventive videogame-inspired action with even more inventive spoofs and versions of a technological future. One that Marie Lu managed to make not farfetch’d from the way it operated, using real science and real politics. Everything conflictual in that book I felt had the probability to really happen if this technology was made. Wildcard added even more crazy ways to horrify us about our growing electricity cerebellums. One of my favourite ideas in Warcross was The Dark World, the most dangerous online place where people bet and buy not just illegal weapons or power-ups but assassinations. Well, in Wildcard, there’s a brand new version of it, with almost all the users having turned themselves in and unable to log back in either or, and now a bare minimum are around with new ways to trap rats. I didn’t think about it that way. But I certainly never would’ve dreamed up how these other characters, some old, some brand new, manage to wreak more crazy havoc on the technology.
Basically, by using this crazy and relatable sci-fi, Lu manages to put our characters into personal meltdowns, and we might think between the lines of what we would do and what we would want. Even the final resolution is grounded in astounding realism.
There aren’t as many actual Warcross battles this time. With the underground feel to it with this new plot, Emika’s kind of unable to play many games. This caused a bit of a slow first act in my viewpoint. Also, there’s a chase that ends up forcing her to trust someone with clearly not a care about ammunition, and she thinks a little too much whereas she would really probably run for her life and think about the fact she was with someone with a gun a little later. But then a character we’ve really grown to like gets shot, and I all of a sudden gulped. A little while ago, in preparation for this book, I reread the first book, and I realized how much I began to like the collected, triumphant Asher, the narcissistic, silly Hammie, and the protective, troubled Roshan. I was worried what would happen with them, and it certainly didn’t help how many times Lu was twisting around what I actually thought was going to happen. Let’s just say, we think we know the truth but we really don’t, and this brand new intense feeling of mystery manages to get the general absence of Warcross fights out of the way.
Finally, I wanted to say that, as you may know, I was disappointed with the end of Marie Lu’s first series, the Legend trilogy, and one of the reasons was how long it took to get to the climax and how short the final battle ended up being. I was worried Wildcard would fall into the same trap. Well, I’ve given this book the same rating as its predecessor. That should be revealing enough.
Wildcard is a worthy sequel and conclusion to Marie Lu’s newest series, and now I kind of want to go look for something to play.