Margin Notes: Armada
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.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I loved Ready, Player One, so was really excited when I saw this book available on my library's shelf. It's definitely in the same vein and for the same type of reader. Though I'm not much of a video gamer (does playing tetris on my iPhone count?) I still enjoyed this book. I think it will appeal more to people who are / were avid video gamers b/c there were a lot of visual cues from, inside references to, and conversation about video games from the 80s forward.
This book has an almost Ender's Game feel throughout it (other reviewers also mention a movie I'm not familiar with)--(view spoiler)[alien invasion, video games as training grounds for real pilots (in this case, drones) to fight the alien invaders, etc. I preferred Ender's Game because I felt like you really got into the head of the characters and saw their motivations and cared about them and understood their strategy, conflict, etc. In Armada, I found the relationships glossed over. Our main character / narrator Zach Lightman lives with his sweet and equally gamer-y mom. His dad passed away when he was a kid. He has a bit of a temper (the whole "the incident" thing felt unnecessary and added on, wish they did something else to give him depth). He has a couple buddies who also love playing Armada. He works in a video game shop. The narration is fun, but it felt like it was being written to be optioned as a movie. There was no emotional investment and LOTS of pop culture references. If you aren't into the 80s/90s gaming culture, it meant a lot of the nuance of the book is lost since he's telling you rather than showing you what is going on.
The characters fell a little flat for me--I wasn't that interested in anyone. They didn't seem to have emotions (how do you not react to your world being blown apart in an intergalactic war?!) and there were a TON of instant-love connections at the end of the world type of thing.
I do think this would make a fun movie. And I liked the plot! It just wasn't that unique. I wish there was more emotional depth to the book. But all in all, I enjoyed reading it!
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