“Armada” by Ernest Cline (Crown, 2015)


Ernest Cline kind of surprised everyone with the adventurous entertainment of his debut novel, Ready Player One, with its fun video game atmosphere and myriad 80’s jokes and references. Sadly, his follow up novel, Armada, has an interesting premise that is plenty entertaining, but just doesn’t feel very original.

It’s a familiar storyline: Zack Lightman lives in a different world to everyone else. He is always daydreaming, obsessed with a number of video games, particular Armada, and continues to wonder about his father who died in a freak accident. His old man left lots of journals and books about the games he played, as well as one specific volume with all his conspiracy theories about video games and how they’re really an elaborate cover-up to brainwash everyone about how we are not alone in the universe and one day they’ll be coming and we need to be ready for them.

Then one day while he’s daydreaming in class, he sees a flying saucer outside in the sky in broad daylight. Only it’s not your stereotypical flying saucer, it’s specifically a ship from the video game he can’t get enough of, Armada. As Zack takes a journey down a thought path that is convinced his father was insane with all his crazy conspiracy theories, and now Zack is following in the same footsteps.

Then it happens. It turns out a number of the characters and ships and weapons from Armada are in fact completely real. Zack has just been drafted, as one of the game’s top players, to fight. Because the evil aliens in the game are also real and have plans to attack and destroy Earth. Also, his dad happens to be alive, working to fight against the aliens, and is currently residing on the moon.

Armada would feel like a great original and entertaining novel if it weren’t for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, about a group of kids who think they’re playing video games but are in fact fighting aliens and saving the world. While this book is different, it is too close and similar of a storyline to not set the reader off in anger.

Originally written on August 27th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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