Review: Wildcard

2.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to like you so much. Wildcard, by Marie Lu (Warcross #2)

wild1Wildcard veers well off the course set by its predecessor, Warcross. It leaves the flashy, immersive tech and hacking brilliance of a future lived mostly online, and delves deeply into the characters’ pasts and motivations. Too bad I just didn’t care that much.

Hideo, whiz kid creator of life-changing link-up technology as well as the Warcross game, is emotionally paralyzed by the disappearance of his younger brother Saske when they were kids. Our heroine Emi, who hacked her way into the game and Hideo’s heart in Book 1, sets out to investigate what happened to Saske all those years ago. A nefarious plot is uncovered. It involves technology, artificial intelligence, and a lot of other things that sound cool in a recap but, in the book, are far less compelling than just the game and the world of the first Warcross book.

wild2One thing I’ll give this story is that it doesn’t have clear good vs. bad guys. Some noble intentions lead to evil actions, some characters manipulate at every turn. Still, I was less than engaged. The exploration of what happened to Saske and how it affects Hideo and Emi’s current world seemed endless and meandering. There is a good story there, a straight-up, sci-fi mystery with full ramifications for justice and society. But it’s not used that way. Instead, what should be two chapters of story drags out to ten, simply to provide opportunities for will-they-or-won’t-they romantic interludes.

It was during those interludes the audiobook narrator did her worst. Breathing a ragged whisper into the mic, she sounded like a creepy fangirl stalker spying on two internet celebs from the bushes, and Facebook Live-casting a play-by-play of their sexy times. It made me miss Sarah J. Maas’ pulpy, unsubtle fanfic prose.

Warcross is fantastic: techie brilliant, angsty adolescence, Japan-bright and flashing. Wildcard is decidedly not. Had the first book not been so good, this second book wouldn’t be so disappointing.

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