Armada

by Ernest Cline
First sentence: “I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: July 14, 2015
Review copy pilfered off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s a lot of swearing, of all sorts. If you have a problem with that, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this. It’ll be in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies to quote was The Last Starfighter. (I know: there’s no accounting for taste.) I swear my brothers and I watched it over and over again the summer of 1985 or 1986) and there were lines that incorporated themselves into our everyday lingo (“I’ve always wanted to fight a desperate battle against incredible odds.”). But, when I tried to show it to my kids, I cringed: it’s a pretty bad movie.

So, when I started Armada by Ernest Cline, I cringed: he’s pretty much riffing off the idea behind Last Starfighter (and Ender’s Game): video games, believe it or not, have been training for the impending alien invasion, and since the mid-1970s (it’s set in 2017, as far as I could figure), the top players of the game Armada have been recruited to serve as the Earth’s Defense.

Zack Lightman is one of those players. He’s been obsessed with games, and specifically Armada, since was was old enough to realize that his father — who died when Zack was barely one — was a gamer and Zack wanted to emulate him. Zack’s crawled up the ranks in Armada, until he’s the 6th highest ranked player in the world. And then: he sees a spaceship, one straight from Armada. That’s when his life gets really weird.

Like Ready Player One, this one has a litmus test. If you like/get the following passage, this book is probably for you:

In that moment, I felt like Luke Skywalker surveying a hanger full of A-, Y-, and X-Wing Fighters just before the Battle of Yavin. Or Captain Apollo, climbing into the cockpit of his Viper on the Galactica‘s flight deck. Ender Wigging arriving at Battle School. Or Alex Rogan, clutching his Star League uniform, staring wide-eyed at a hanger full of Gunstars.

I won’t give away too much more of the plot except to say this:  it took a while to get into it, but I was glad I kept with it. I liked the direction that Cline took it in the end.  A good read.

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