Posted in Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Step into YA Cyberpunk with Marie Lu’s Warcross

Warcross, by Marie Lu, (Sept. 2017, Penguin), $18.99, ISBN: 9780399547966

Recommended for readers 12+

Okay, confession time: I have never read a Marie Lu book. The desire’s been there: the Legend books, the Young Elites series, and most certainly, the upcoming Batman novel she’s writing. I finally saw my chance and jumped on the Lu reader wagon with Warcross, and I am SO glad I did.

Eighteen year-old Emika Chen is a bounty hunter, but not your conventional bounty hunter. Warcross is a MMORPG that’s a global sensation; accessible through VR-type glasses that convince your brain you’re in a different series of worlds. Emika tracks down Warcross players who are betting illegally, or getting up to otherwise shady stuff online, but business has been rough and she’s facing eviction. She decides to hack into the Warcross championships to steal an artifact or two to sell – the same shadiness she’d normally get an assignment to track down – and thanks to a glitch in the game, finds herself visible in front of the world. Hideo Tanaka, Warcross creator and brainchild, flies her out to Japan and immediately hires her to take down a security problem inside the game. He puts her on one of the Warcross championship teams and gives her carte blanche to track down the risk, but what she uncovers goes far deeper than a simple game glitch.

Warcross transports you into the story, making you feel like you’re observing the action from your own viewing area. There’s intrigue and subplots that constantly keep you guessing, and characters that will keep you invested – love them or not. It’s cyberpunk for a whole new generation – Neuromancer crossed with World of Warcraft. Intense writing, diverse characters, some romance, high-speed virtual reality gaming, and personal agendas gone wild make Warcross must-read YA.


Warcross received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in gaming, geek, geek culture, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Geek Mystery – The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

dahlia mossThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, by Max Wirestone (Oct. 2015, Red Hook Books), $20, ISBN: 978-0316385978

Recommended for ages 14+

Geeks finally have a Jessica Fletcher to call their own (That’s the detective from the old TV show, Murder, She Wrote – ask your parents, kids)!  Meet Dahlia Moss – twenty-something geek girl who doesn’t make the best life decisions. She’s unemployed, unattached, and broke, living off her eccentric roommate for the time being. When Charice, her roommate, throws another one of her crazy parties, Dahlia finds herself being hired for private detective work by one of the guests, Jonah – it seems that someone stole a valuable artifact from him through his MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – think World of Warcraft, for any uninitiated reading this). Dahlia has zero detecting experience, but she does speak geek, and Jonah flashes a lot of money her way, so she takes the case. The plot only thickens when Jonah turns up dead shortly after. Now, Dahlia’s determined to find the artifact, the killer, and quite possibly, a new boyfriend. Let’s hope her decision-making abilities improve!

Told in the first person from Dahlia’s point of view, this is an often hilarious, readable, fun, whodunit. We’ve got a new heroine for the geek age in Dahlia Moss, who’s self-conscious, sarcastic, and fluent in fandom. If you love a good mystery – heck, even if you don’t, but love science fiction, gaming, fantasy, or any kind of fandom, this is a great book for you. Wirestone is a librarian, and if there’s one thing I know about our people, the Geek is strong with us. She humorously captures the strange bedfellows that online gaming makes of us all, and manages to weave together a smartly layered mystery and a love of all things quirky and geek. Dahlia Moss herself is wonderfully left of center and will appeal to anyone whose square peg just won’t fit into that round hole, no matter how hard we try.

Teens and college students will get a kick out of this book and likely try to figure out how their own social groups match up to Dahlia and her friends. Here’s hoping we get some more Dahlia adventures in the future!

Posted in Fantasy, geek culture, Graphic Novels, roleplaying, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

In Real Life: Where online worlds cross over to reality.

in real lifeIn Real Life, by Cory Doctorow/Illustrated by Jen Wang (:01 First Second, Oct. 2014). $17.99, ISBN: 9781596436589

Recommended for ages 13+

I’m a Cory Doctorow fan. I loved Little Brother, and I was fascinated by For the Win, which examines the lives of “gold farmers” – people whose job it is – in real life – to acquire gold and magic/rare items in games, and sell them to players for real-world currency. The gamers – which include children – are from poor families in third-world countries: India, China, and Singapore, working in deplorable conditions, and exploited by sweatshop bosses who pay pitiful wages.

In Real Life is a graphic novel about a girl named Anda, who loves playing a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) named Coarsegold. She makes friends in the gamespace, ultimately falling in with Lucy, a more experienced gamer who takes Anda under her wing. They stalk and “kill” the “gold farmers” they encounter, believing them to be cheating by selling gold and rare items to fellow gamers. The farmers look small, almost childlike, and Anda – despite doing this in the gamespace – feels guilty. She strikes up a friendship with one of the farmers, a Chinese teenager named Raymond, who tells her about his life and his job – laboring under sweatshop conditions to farm so that he can help support his family – and Anda decides that something needs to be done.

The story is similar to Doctorow’s plot in For the Win, but without delving into the global politics and economics involved in the novel. I loved this graphic novel, which could be an introduction or supplement to For the Win. We get to see positive representations of female gamers, teenagers, and we have a moral central character who is forced to understand that even morals don’t come solely in black and white. At the same time, In Real Life calls attention to a form of human rights violation taking place all over the world, yet located in our homes, our libraries, and anywhere we game.

Jen Wang’s art is perfect for Doctorow’s story. She’s got a manga style that works for me. Her use of color works to as a soft contrast to the tech storyline, and brings out the humanity at the tale’s core.

In Real Life publishes in October of this year, and I can’t wait to get it on my shelves. It’s going to be a great addition to any graphic novel collection, and a must-read for older tweens and teens, especially those who game. Social Studies courses could get some great discussions by adding this book to their curriculum.