Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published: September 12, 2017
Number of Pages: 368
Emika is a rainbow-haired bounty hunter, hacker, and amateur Warcross player. (Warcross is basically a virtual reality mashup of capture the flag and Mario Kart.) In desperate need for cash, Emika hacks her way into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships. In the process, however, she accidentally glitches herself into the game and becomes an overnight sensation. Accustomed to the shadowy worlds of hacking and bounty hunting, Emika is thrust into the international spotlight. Away from the cameras, parties, and grueling training sessions, however, Emika is gearing up for the bounty of a lifetime.
NOTE: Based on certain character names and technologies in this story, it seems to be a secret prequel set decades before the events of the “Legend” series. Marie Lu has confirmed that both series take place in the same world, though Warcross is set 80 or 90 years before Legend. I am eager to see how this series reveals the events that lead to the realities of Legend.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Special thanks to the Professional Book Nerds Podcast for recommending this book!
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction
Original Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Published: January 1, 1934
Number of Pages: 336
Hercule Poirot, fresh off a case in Syria, is interrupted from his would-be holiday in Istanbul by an urgent telegram from London. Poirot dutifully tries to book passage on the next train back, but is surprised to find that, although it is the slow season and no one normally travels, the train is already full. With the help of his train company director friend Mr. Bouc, however, Poirot is able to find a berth. On the second night of the journey, the train finds itself stuck in a snow drift—with a murdered passenger to boot! Who is the murdered man? Who could have a motive to take his life? Who on this train smokes a pipe? Poirot investigates!
The Ties That Bind
Warning: Major spoilers follow in the form of details and plot points.
Due to the natures of these stories, it is impossible to point out the connections between them without including these details.
Major spoilers ahead for both books.
Okay, both stories include the kidnap and/or murder of a child. More than that, though, the reactions of family and friends in both cases are very acute and provide a dark guiding current in both narratives.
In Warcross, inventor/video game designer/billionaire Hideo Tanaka spends every minute trying to make up for the worst day of his life. A few years before he invented next-level virtual reality, Hideo was playing in a local park with his little brother Sasuke. While Hideo is busy hiding plastic eggs for a game that will eventually become Warcross, Sasuke disappears into the bushes and is never seen again. Hideo and their parents are completely wrecked. Even over a decade after this tragedy, Hideo is still haunted (and driven) by it. As he tells Emika, “Everything I do is for Sasuke.”
Although the trauma of losing his little brother understandably shapes Hideo’s entire life—his values, his drive, his understanding of the world, his relationships with other people, his perceptions of right and wrong—they are not exactly typical. Not many thirteen-year-olds create brain-integrated virtual reality. All this takes a much darker turn, however, when it is revealed that Hideo has secretly embedded a form of mind control into the latest generation of his virtual-reality gear.
Using his newly-released virtual reality contact lenses, Hideo has introduced an algorithm into the brains of millions of people around the world. This algorithm is activated when it calculates that a user is about to break the law—it then taps into the user’s brainwaves so as to change that person’s mind. For example, if someone decides she is going to rob a gas station, the algorithm will detect her telltale brainwaves and mathematically convince her not to rob the gas station. No more armed hold-ups. If someone were, to say, decide to kidnap a child from a park, the algorithm would prevent that from happening. No more little disappearing Sasukes. Although there is definitely a possibility for immense good to come out of this technology, it also has very scary implications. Who gets to decide “right” and “wrong”? Not all laws are just, after all. What if the algorithm develops a glitch or is hacked into? What if this technology is put into the wrong hands? And what about free will?
Side Note: Hideo has a God complex and he literally has the word “Deo” aka “God” in his name (I know he’s Japanese & “Deo” is Latin, but I stand by what I said.)
In Murder on the Orient Express, it is revealed that Samuel Ratchett (the murdered man) is actually Lanfranco Cassetti—a man on the run from the American Police for the kidnap and murder of three-year-old Daisy Armstrong. Moreover, the further Poirot investigates, the more passengers he finds connected to the Armstrong case. Princess Dragomiroff was godmother to Mrs. Armstrong. Hector McQueen’s father was the district attorney who handled the Armstrong case in the American courts. Countess Andrenyi is the much-younger sister of Mrs. Armstrong. Antonio Foscanelli was the Armstrong family’s chauffeur. The revelations go on and on.
Eventually, it is clear that just about every passenger on the Stamboul-Calasi coach is somehow connected to the Armstrong case. Poirot correctly deduces that each of Cassetti’s 12 stab wounds was inflicted by a different passenger. Just as an American criminal case is decided by 12 jurors, these 12 passengers judge Cassetti to be guilty of the death of little Daisy Armstrong and sentence him to death, which all 12 promptly carry out.
Though both stories include similar circumstances—the kidnapping and/or murder of a small child—it is the reactions of the family and friends of that child that create the true parallels between the narratives. Hideo Tanaka blamed himself for his brother’s disappearance and eventually created virtual reality, Warcross, and mind control—all in the name of Sasuke. Twelve people, most of whom adored little Daisy Armstrong, colluded together to kill the man who murdered her. In both books, family members of a kidnapped child turn to the “proper authorities” when tragedy strikes. Once the police have failed, however, at least one family member of the kidnapped child decides to take the law into his or her own hands. Hideo decides to literally remove the thought of kidnapping (and other crimes) from the minds of all his Warcross users. The passengers of the Orient Express elect to take up the mantles of judge, jury, and executioner for themselves. Though the methods are very different, both books show how the disappearance of a child sets off a chain of events that lead to a very long-term and intricate plan to prevent such circumstances from happening again.
One Summer by Bill Bryson and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs