Armada (Review)

Armada (Review)

kay, a book by the guy who wrote Ready Player One, which was made into a movie that bore little resemblance to it. In this novel, we have another cast-off modern kid with absent daddy issues, Zach Lightman, who loves the late-sixties and seventies gaming world. Of course, while he is well-versed in older games, he is an Ace-of-the-Base in the modern game “Armada”. It’s a game that pits the main character (in a drone fighter) (which makes a lot more sense than wasting a perfectly good human) (kudos to author Ernest Cline for this point) against an enemy armada that is going to strip the Earth of all life (those bastards).

And then, in the middle of a perfectly lousy day, Zach sees something that rocks him onto his heels – an enemy fighter flying, right out of the game, skylarking about over his real-world town. The day gets weirder when a shuttle (bearing the profile and insignia of the Armada game’s defense force) flies down and picks him up. He learns that everything he learned in the game is actually real, that the secretly united governments of Earth have reverse-engineered the alien tech, and that his game is actually a secret training program and his high score puts him in a commanding rank.

Who hasn’t dreamed that?

Actually, it HAS been dreamed by the makers of several movies, notably The Last Starfighter, but there have been others. And just as I started to think that this guy was riding a typical fly-literally-boy trope, it turns out that the main character starts to think the same thing. And that’s where the novel gets interesting – what the hell is really going on? What are the aliens playing at. The whole thing leaks like a shotgunned bucket. And in the end, I’ll give it to the author that he came up with clever answers for this.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention something I can’t believe (and, after all, I’ll believe alien invaders and all that silly stuff). It’s that everyone who plays games now has this wonderful relationship with the seventies, as if it was the age was golden. I lived in the seventies as a teen and I can tell you that the arcade games sucked, the computer games came on cassette cartridges, that the movies had cheesy CGI and were damn-near unwatchable. So this whole mis-remembering what the seventies really were, and the idea that every kid playing an online game is a trivia-master of the era, is a little silly.

And this is coming from someone who found the Easter Egg in Atari’s “Adventure”. I mean, really!