I have found a new top favorite: Doomsday Wonderland. And there are many reasons as to why.
First off, this is my first sci-fi post-apocalyptic Chinese novel. I don't know what the other Chinese ones out there are like, but this is definitely nothing like the sci-fi English ones I've read so far (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Darkest Minds, Maze Runner, etc.). The reason I first fell in love with those cultivation and reincarnation novels was for the reason that they were new and original in their setting and ideas and characters. But after reading so many of the same kind and beginning to grow bored, someone recommended this diamond to me.
The beginning of the story was a bit slow, and at times, I wanted to wring the MC's neck because she was such a...noob. She wasn't smart right away like our assassin empress MCs who already lived a previous life full of experience. It's more like she's living the life that shaped those assassin empresses into the sharp diamonds that they became. Over the course of the story, she goes from making stupid beginner mistakes like trusting too easily and refusing to kill enemies who might bring her trouble later to becoming a powerful foe that could make any transmigrator or reincarnator make a run for their money.
After reading so many palace and entertainment industry novels, some of the schemes get old and you can begin to accurately predict them. It doesn't mean they aren't exciting but just less so than back at a time when you were new to them and sitting at the edge of your seat, wondering what exactly the MC had up her sleeve. Here, it's a completely different setting with a fresh set of adversaries who are trying to survive in their new worlds like they are in the hunger games and not in the back courtyard of the palace with scheming concubines. That means a whole new and different kind of scheming/planning to look forward to. No plot or character is repetitive or makes you think you've already read it earlier in the book.
A big factor that makes this story more exciting is that the characters have powers and special items that grant them abilities. They are atypical and unique, not like the usual super speed or mind reading or fire powers we see. Instead, there are things like being able to store items in cards, kicking people far into the sky as if they were Team Rocket, turning a cucumber into a giant green snake, putting people on an invisible treadmill that will keep them running in the same spot, making someone fall for you with a single laugh. The more OP a power seems, the more limitations it has, which makes the stakes a whole lot higher. The MC's power seems a bit useless compared to others' in the beginning, but the further it gets into the story, the more it develops and shows potential in becoming something deserving of OP status with fewer limitations.
Be warned that there are horror elements and gore within these chapters. I'm not really the type for either but mixed with the action, mystery, twists, and characters I'm already attached to, I quite enjoyed them in here. Expect a LOT of twists, as nothing is simple in this book. People who you will think are friends or allies might turn out to be traitors the whole time, for all you know. You won't see them coming, and believe me, I've been there.
Now about romance. I'm not going to lie. There is no male lead so far and no indication of any romance, but before you drop this book before even picking it up, hear me out. What do you define as romance exactly? Kissing? Hugging? Sweet words? Sex? The story has none of these. But what it does have is many great interactions between the MC and individual hot, powerful guys. No guy is alike or flat like in those average cultivation novels.
[Small spoilers on some of the different guys she'll encounter] You have an extremely powerful sharp-tongued guy with a katana who is soft on the inside and loves sweets; he becomes her strict mentor of a sort at some point. A handsome, drunk actor for a companion who is sometimes reliable and sometimes not but can be counted on to want the best for the MC and occasionally surprises everyone with his ruthless inner genius; when one of her crimes catch up to her in the form of pursuers looking for her, he's the perfect person to throw them off her trail with his smooth acting. An evil, petty, extremely powerful big boss who has blacklisted and hunted the MC for years for doing something small to humiliate him years ago; he became a favorite of the general readers after he allied with her in one arc instead of chasing her down. A mysterious blond guy who has a black belly of schemes; he's one of the most handsome ones that give you the shivers whenever he begins talking.
None of these guys get romantic with the MC in terms of intimate stuff like loving eyes and kissing and touching (in a post-apocalyptic world, there's no time for that if you want to live). What they all do is acknowledge (or at least deep down in their heart) that she's someone who could rival them in strength and power. Because there is no real male lead so far, that also leaves us readers to ship the MC with whoever and all we like without the fear that our ship will sink to the main one. No cannon ship is going to stop us, not even from shipping the hot guys with ourselves since the MC hasn't already taken them.
If I were you, I'd quickly add this novel to my library. It's definitely worth it.