Warning: This post contains minor spoilers.
I’ve spent the past couple weeks worldbuilding for a new story, and sometimes it’s helpful to find examples of authors who have successfully built and presented imaginative worlds in their books. Creating a world can be hard enough, but weaving information into your story without the use of info dumps forms another challenge in itself. Marie Lu does a fantastic job with both tasks in her latest book, Warcross.
Warcross takes place in the not-too-distant future of earth, specifically in New York City and Tokyo. In this future, virtual reality and a game known as Warcross form a primary component of daily life and culture for many people. Warcross itself becomes a spectator sport, and the virtual reality devices connected to it allow people to experience life around them in a different way—decorated buildings, eccentric fashion, virtual pets, and the like. Real life and virtual life exist together, one on top of the other.
We experience this world through Emika Chen, a bounty hunter whose hacking ability earns her a place in the Warcross Championship, during which Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, wants her to uncover a security problem. Lu reveals aspects of her futuristic earth in a casual and easily digestible manner. The various interactions with virtual reality technology and its effects on daily life pop up regularly, but not all at once. Most people have Warcross glasses, people use Warcross as a source of income in both legal and illegal ways, the glasses allow users to store memories, and virtual reality can alter the appearances of people and buildings. This consistent introduction of information forms an overall image of Emika’s society, which is a believable future version of our own.
Beyond the depiction of virtual reality’s impact on regular life, Lu’s creation of the virtual world itself reveals her skill with worldbuilding. As a player in the Warcross Championship, Emika enters multiple games, each in a different setting with varying aspects of gameplay: a glacier landscape with enormous beasts trapped inside towers of ice, a sunken city, and a fighting ring for mecha robots. Lu combines these unique settings with the creative power-ups used in gameplay to produce well-paced and intriguing scenes.
Within the legal and popular worlds of Warcross exists the Dark World, location of the Pirate’s Den and Emerald Emporium, where people go to place illegal bets on games, purchase rare power-ups, partake in identity theft, and even hire assassins. Just as with the real world and the world of Warcross, Lu introduces the atmospheric Dark World and the danger surrounding it throughout Emika’s visits. The Dark World becomes a different view of how people utilize Warcross’s virtual reality technology. It makes sense that it exists in this world, and it plays an important role in Emika’s story.
Warcross by Marie Lu serves as a great example of the use of worldbuilding in storytelling. Lu creates an interesting future for earth, and executes it in both a digestible and believable way. This world contains a mix of good and bad, and forms a solid stage for a cast of gray characters. If you have yet to read Warcross, I highly recommend it, for its developed main character, its multiple plot twists, and its well-constructed world.
What are your thoughts? If you haven’t read Warcross, head to your local library or bookstore, or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or another seller. Also check out Marie Lu’s other work on her website.
If you are in the process of worldbuilding, here is a list of fantasy worldbuilding questions by Patricia C. Wrede to help you out.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.