So you’re in high school. Your father died years ago, you have anger issues and are something of an outcast. You dream that you are destined for something more then this suburban life. Your only outlet is video games. You are ranked #6 in the world for Armada, the sci-fi dog-fighting sim. Then the video game world spills into the real world when you see a flying saucer from Armada on your way to school.
Armada is the story of Zach Lightman, teenage archetypal hero. His father died in a mysterious circumstances when Zach was young. Like his father he is obsessed with video games, science fiction, and a distrust of “the man.” He’s among the best in the world at Armada. When an alien ship When he’s picked up by the shuttle craft he doesn’t blink an eye because the shuttle is straight out of the game as well. Turns out that life is a bit weirder then Zach thought. Humans made contact with alien life forms in the 60’s when they received messages on one of Saturn’s moons. The Government has been covering it up. Alien life seems to be hostile towards humanity. To prepare the human race government agents have been influencing pop culture to ease people into the idea of humanity uniting to fight the alien invaders.
So for the good. It’s a quick read. There are some fun set pieces. He upends the trope where people in a zombie apocalypse/alien invasion film have never seen a zombie apocalypse/alien invasion and
have no idea what’s going on.
For the not so good. The story. The characters. The plotting and pace. Cline’s predictability and his counting on nostalgia to tint their reading glasses. The story is a pretty basic retread of The Last Starfighter meets Ender’s Game, but doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The characters are all flat, boring characters, with few surprises there. The plotting feels very uneven, with the second act dragging and the third act rushing. Like Read Player One, Ernest Cline has a sprinkle of- no, that’s not the right term, a deluge of pop culture references throughout the book. He drops lines from obvious (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and The Last Starfighter) and the not so obvious (Buckaroo Banzai and They Live!). But it feels like he’s doing this to fill in gaps in his storytelling and description. Mainly what happens is you feel like you want to read/watch/play one of the many
This was Ernest Cline’s second book, after Ready Player One. RP1 was optioned by Steven Spielburg after a massive bidding war. It’s going to be a $100 million+ movie. Rival studios are lining up to lend their IPs to the movie. Armada was
optioned. Unless the obviously planned sequel/trilogy is fantastic, I can’t see this book being picked up for anything.