Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
I love the idea of this novel - what if all the fighting video games out there were really training simulators, teaching generations of kids (and adults) how to fight, how to fly, how to control remote drones and battle aliens? What if all the sci-fi movies and books from the last 40 years were created to indoctrinate the general public to the idea that alien life is out there, and we might have to fight it somehow?
That's exactly what happens in this book. Zack goes from being an angry, angsty teenager that happens to be really, really good at a particular video game to a key part of earth's defense against the attacks against the aliens he had unknowingly been training to fight in his video games.
I appreciated that Zack noted how weird it was that the "real" aliens behaved exactly like the video game aliens, and that both he and his father fought to discover the truth and stop the invasion before it got out of hand. What I didn't like so much was the way Zack's dad was recruited - did they really have to fake their deaths? Couldn't they have said they were joining the CIA or some other covert agency, and could only check in via phone? It felt like Xavier was made to disappear because he had to for Zack to develop into the hero the book needed. Also, it makes me angry that Xavier has to die in the end, and that the admiral pretty much just says, "Whoops! My bad! Thanks for saving us and sorry I killed your dad to try and stop you." I feel like there should have been bigger repercussions for that whole situation."
I enjoyed reading this one, and it seems like there could potentially be a sequel, which could be interesting. There's lots we haven't learned about those aliens, including everything about them. If you're looking for more books like this, I would recommend Cline's first book, Ready Player One (which I happen to prefer over this one), or Redshirts by John Scalzi, which has similar themes of "why am I always the center of the story and miraculously survive all the time?" Very meta and funny.
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