Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pages: 302
Rating: 6.9

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. 

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Since Harry Potter became a massive hit, everyone instantly covets to embark on a thrilling adventure. The Chosen One trope is frequently used and raped in fantasy books to justify this phenomenon.

Ernest Cline exactly knows and understands that.

In this science-fiction book, Armada--which is nothing like Ready Player One (this is sarcasm, indeed!)--Cline portrays the life of Zack Lightman, an eighteen-year-old teenage boy who longs for such thrilling adventure. But, who is he? Zack Lightman is only a nerdy gamer who plays Armada--a space battle simulation--every night until he reaches the top 10 player worldwide. That even makes him geekier. But, absolutely Cline's hidden agenda to alter people's paradigm about geek--just like what Green does with his and his brother's Nerdfighters--changes Zack's lives. The conspiracy theories that his deceased father has compiled suddenly becomes real. Until one day, he is recruited by Earth Defense Alliance to fight some--well--aliens. Of course.

Once again, Cline proves himself to be an aficionado in a science-virtual-reality-games-fiction. This Armada games has a great premise--well, to be honest the premise of the book itself is great as well. The government's idea to send subliminal message to civilians about alien invasion by using popular culture such as games and movies--starting from Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica--is creepy yet probably accurate. I mean these alien invasion movies and games have choked our throat down since decades ago. What is the most possible explanation then?

However, what makes Armada more abysmal than Ready Player One, that I keep praising is, Armada is like a rip-off of Ready Player One. The main character--both Zack and Wade are geek and nerdy and possess incredulous amount of references in 80's-90's pop culture, the pop culture references and the virtual reality games that both have used as its main plot device. While Ready Player One seems really fresh, I find Armada is old and ancient. Especially, Armada's plot is like a combination of Ender's Gameand Star Wars. Like really. Cline also hasn't cured his habit in technobabbling and infodumping. I don't mind though, but sometimes it can be exhausting.

But afterall, this is Ernest Cline who is capable of creating ernest character (Did you get it? Ernest? Earnest?), and the main character himself is really fun to read--even if it's like the recycle of Wade, but Wade is a fun character, so that's fine. The battle scene--at the end of the book, especially--is really great and nailbiting. But, the first two phase of the book is such a torment, because it is really boring and dull. Even I find myself skipping the battle scene in phase two since it does not give any essence at all.

Well, still, Armada is not bad. Only if you haven't read Ready Player One. So, I will recommend to read Armada first then Ready Player One, just to give you a head-up about how Ernest Cline can be really great. Even so, Armada doesn't change the fact that Ernest Cline indeed a great writer.

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