SCI-FI AUTHOR MARIE Lu sets her trilogies in shadowy realms, from a militarized police state (Legend) to a hunted secret society (The Young Elites). But as a former videogame designer for Disney Interactive Studios, Lu was conjuring up dark, fantastical worlds long before her books became best sellers. In Warcross, out this month, Lu embraces her gamer roots.
The novel is set in a global videogame controlled by a secretive tech CEO. Creating the immersive digital realm was a dream job for Lu, who infuses the Warcross universe with all the futuristic capabilities she longed for as a player. “I approached the writing process like a game studio with an infinite budget,” she says. Though the book takes inspiration from the insularity of Silicon Valley, Lu’s virtual world is low on bros—it features a rainbow-haired, Chinese American hacker-heroine, as well as disabled and gay characters.
Next up, the hit-maker is finishing a novel exploring the life of teenage Batman, scheduled to be published by Random House next year. For Lu, whose belief in righteous resistance was formed while growing up in China (she was 4 at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests), the project was a chance to inhabit the conflicted mind of the Dark Knight. “I love that Bruce Wayne is this nuanced character who literally lives in the shadows,” she says. “Now I can actually say, ‘I’m Batman.’”