Can I be honest? I’m going to be honest..
I did not love Warcross. I think I liked it, it was fine. I read it months ago and I don’t completely remember the details of my bookish feelings but I think I enjoyed it as a quick day-off read that pulled zero (lol) emotions from my eternally haggard soul. In fact my deep dark secret is that despite being a person who essentially started blogging out of desperation to talk to other book people about Marie Lu’s Legend series (kinda seriously) I haven’t actually truly clicked with any of her books since Champion.
Until today, I loved Wildcard. Loved it. It honestly felt a bit like coming home.
For me, I think that having the plot and relationships presented in Warcross be a bit faded in my memory helped me jump in. I sort of remember not caring about anyone all that much. Emika was a fun heroine and I enjoyed the Riders, but Hideo??? No. He felt empty and unlikable to me and I don’t think I bought into their relationship. Somehow though, ten pages into Wildcard I cared about everyone and everything. Apparently, a bit of time and only a vague memory of the previous book was exactly what I needed. But actually it was probably because the stakes felt high and because Emika cared and I believed and connected with her voice in a way I hadn’t before. For whatever reason that allowed the character of Hideo to be fleshed out and emotionally balanced in a way that it hadn’t been before so by the time we dug further into his story arc I was fully invested both in hope for his redemption but also for a future for the Emika/Hideo ship.
The other thing that perhaps helped me here was that the book seemed overall much more character driven and less world building and game playing. I have seen others express disappointment that more time was not spent in the game but for me that probably contributed to my preference for this book. I LOVE science and science fiction but I am not a gamer. I’m actually a weeeeennny bit tech challenged. So while I truly enjoy the overall concept of the neurolink and the Warcross game the actual gaming sequences sort of ends op feeling like a car chase scene to me (which is always where I check out in a movie).
Ultimately this story was truly about a lot of big concepts that are knocking at our proverbial door, and I love Lu for tackling those things. What I love even more is that the solutions aren’t obvious or clear, because they aren’t really! Science and technology have always had the power to save and destroy us and to do both simultaneously.
Ok time to talk details… feel free to skip if you haven’t read the book 🙂
So I think we all knew who Zero was like 10 min after he showed up in Warcross right? That knowledge didn’t particularly bother me but I was certainly not surprised by the revelation. What DID surprise me was the sum total of the REST of Zero/Sasuke’s story! Holy hell! To say I loved the way that was crafted would be an understatement. I loved the duality of the character and the many ways his existence highlighted a moral tightrope that we all may walk someday soon. And I loved his backstory and how, praise be, it gave way to an AMAZING and emotionally complex route for Hideo to progress in his own story (something I think was missing in Warcross for me). For now though let me tell you the two things topics really chilled me.
- Child research: Disclaimer here, is that I’m a Resident Pediatrician… Sooooooo this one hits the mark in many ways. Firstly, I know and see the value of research PARTICULARLY in my field! Kids are in fact, vastly underrepresented because of course the issue of informed consent is SUPER sticky and also no one wants to risk hurting kids and thus, it is very hard to fund and be approved to study new treatments in children (which can be a good thing and theoretically prevents what happened to Susuke). But of course children need to be part of studies too in order to advance the care and treatment of childhood illnesses, because as pediatricians LOVE to say “kids aren’t little adults”. But often we use treatment modicums that have only been truly trailed in an adult population and THAT can be a problem too. So it’s complicated and easy to see how something like the Blackcoat experiment could occur (historically things like this have occurred). Of course as a mother, I get it in a different way and the it tears at me. I have seen the parents of patients who are throwing all their hope onto a tiny broken raft and you had better believe that would be me! 1000X over. I would do/try anything to make my daughter well, to keep her with me, to give us that time. And I do not know if I would have the wisdom and foresight to see a bad egg, and truthfully I don’t know that the lines are always that clear. Which brings me to the next point
- Uploading consciousness: This one is such a huge concept. One that terrifies me but also excites me, if I’m being honest (which we said I was). I love that Lu handled this whole topic with thoughtful grace. She presented it in a way that made you see the emotional draw but also the darkness. I know I said I wasn’t a huge fan of the gaming portions but the final game, for what was essentially Sasuke’s soul was thrilling and I loved how it played out. I even loved that in the end Zero/Sasuke who are now one and the same live on. It felt right to me for this story although it does raise that interesting question about what IS Life.. was it created here, or simply transferred.. both? I love these questions and I love when they are wrapped in a book like this.
So about Hideo, I already mentioned that he wasn’t my favorite in Warcross so let me tell you what I loved about him in Wildcard. I loved the questioning! I loved that he was stubborn and blind to his obviously evil-mindcontrolling-overlord ways buuutt not really. He didn’t want to see the flaw, he didn’t want to think he had ulterior motives, but he did. And you could see right away that the pretty lies he had told himself were crumbling. Which left him with a truth about himself, the truth being that he was willing to sacrifice his humanity and the free will of billions to find his brother. Obviously this probably isn’t morally sound. But I can at least understand it and empathize. It makes him deeply flawed and deeply human which filled in his character nicely. I also loved that it wasn’t completely Emika who guided Hideo to the huge and glaring error of his ways. Rather it was Susuke in the last bits of the story who was able to break down the walls, which made a lovely amount of narrative sense since he was the reason they existed. And I won’t lie, I have shed maybe two tears in my whole life over books (1 was Harry Potter 7 and the other was in middle school and I don’t remember the book) but the reunion scene between Hideo and Sasuke almost did it for me, beautiful!
P.S I love, love, love sibling love.
As for Emika and Hideo, I liked that this relationship was not left hanging. If I didn’t care about it at all in Wildcard I was firmly shipping them by the end of Wascross and I thought the resolution was natural. I believed that they had found a truth in each other and that they could evoke into people who built each other into the best versions of themselves.
So ultimately, I really enjoyed this book, it struck a lot of cords with me. And these days with so little time to squeeze in books it makes me truly happy when I fall in love with a book (I have actually become a person who DNFs books on the regular, which has never happened before!!). Time just seems to be running through my fingers lately for many reasons. Perhaps that’s why this sentiment struck me through the heart.
“At the end, we’d all wish for the same thing. Just a little more time.”
P.S The tea in the pic is a Tupelo brand green tea/mint Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.