Ernest Cline
Armada Cover

Nothing New Here


Ernest Cline takes a mixed bag of ideas that have been used before, mixes them in his pop culture infused cauldron, and spits out his second novel, Armada. But the thing about Cline is that he knows we all know that these ideas aren't new and makes no qualms about it in the novel. Hell, he calls himself out by having the narrator cite the very properties that the author is stealing from.

The basic setup is as follows:

The government has known for years that we are not alone in the universe. In preparation of first contact, the population has been inundated with alien invasion stories in books, movies and other media. In addition to this, they have also secretly been training a huge, unknowing portion of the population to fight these possible invaders in the guise of popular video games.

Enter into this scenario 18 year old Zack Lightman, a gifted gamer with anger issues stemming from his father's death who is being raised by his single mother. Guess who gets drafted for the war effort?

Cline has a tendency to fill his narratives with copious amounts of geeky pop culture references, specifically from the 80's, when he himself was a teenager. In his first novel, Ready Player One, his device for this name dropping was a contest devised by a genius game designer who never really grew up from his 1980's origins. In Armada, Zack is obsessed with his father, who died when Zack was only 10 months old, and who was a teenager in the 1980's.

I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would given the plot synopsis. I'm not sure why this is, in retrospect, since I enjoyed Ready Player One immensely.