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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 359

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As the second and apparently last novel in Marie Lu’s set, Wildcard continues some prominent themes from the first novel, Warcross. Among these are the dangers of uncontrolled greed and of tightly restricted control of technology. The Warcross computer game, which seemed to offer equal opportunity for all to play and to win, has turned into one more way to enforce conformity and control people’s minds. Whether this control can be removed and the game restored to neutrality contributes to the novel’s suspense, but the characters’ motivations are equally relevant.

Overall, the theme of dystopia laid out in the first novel carries through the second; here there is more emphasis on the corollary theme of the necessity for individuality in resisting total social control. Female strength is another thematic area concerned with opposing conformity, exemplified by the daring young protagonist, Emika Chen, who boldly strikes out on her own to overcome others’ evil acts. Nevertheless, even she cannot accomplish everything on her own, so the theme of trust and interdependence becomes increasingly relevant as the plot develops, with Emika interacting more with her team. In addition, the theme of deception is strong: appearances are repeatedly shown to be deceiving, and the reader must continuously re-evaluate both the goals and methods of the Warcross inventor, Hideo Tanaka. A significant theme that undergirds several others is the importance of family; however, this often has negative connotations as it plays out through the unresolved conflicts between Hideo and his brother, Zero, whose gang provides much of the moral ambiguity and plot tension.

Because Warcross is a game and characters spend some time playing it, the theme of entertainment also threads through the novel. The author asks about the role of escapism as contrasted to education through game playing. Does participating in the escapist fantasies of this game help people cope with their difficult situation? Perhaps gaming enforces their sense of resignation and makes them fatalistic, thus inhibiting them from working toward social change. The reader is left to decide if Emika is an anomaly or if her approach to playing offers a hopeful model for others in her society.