Armada by Ernest Cline
First off, let me just say that I loved this book.
Armada is a scfi fiction novel about a video game nerd who tries to save the world during an alien invasion. If that was not enough to get me hooked, I don’t know what else would. The premise of the book is pretty simple and it has many universal themes that almost feel cheesy at some points. It is also full of scfi entertainment references. If you have read Ernest Cline’s other book Ready Player One, (I also loooooved this one) you know what I am talking about.
TLDR : If you can look past the similarities to other novels, and the at some times cheesy story, it is worth the read. A must for any video gamer or scfi fan. This will remain one of my favorite novels for a long time to come.
In Armada there are two mega popular video games that everyone plays. One of the games has to do with defending earth from an alien attack on the ground, and the other is a flight sim of defending/attacking the aliens through the use of drones. Here’s the catch, the company that designed these games based it off of real life data from an alien race we discovered on Europa. These games were developed as training tools to fight the coming alien invasion for when that time came. (Ender’s Game?!)
Enter Zack Lightman, (That last name though) the main protagonist of the story. He has been playing the flight sim version of the training game “Armada” since its release. He is currently the 6th best player in the world too. Zack lives with only his mother as his father had died in a tragic accident. He has a couple best friends that he plays Armada with after he gets home from highschool. His part time job is at the local video game store. He has struggled through school with anger issues and dealing with the loss of never having a father. He lives to play these video games.
Zack is idly daydreaming out the window during class on morning when he sees a ship come down from the sky and zoom around. He thinks he is going crazy because this ship is from his favorite game! He learns that the ships from his favorite video game are real and it is all coming to life. (Favorite video game that you love turns out to be true? Sign me up!)
The next day helicopters with the “Earth Defense Alliance” (From the video game) logo land in the school parking lot, just as he is about to fight a few bullies, and tell him that they need to go with him. Turns out that his boss at the video game store was in on it the whole time and was placed there to help mold him into what the human race needed him to be. He also learns that his father is still alive and is in the EDA also. His father, Xavier Lightman, is a general no less. You learn he had to fake his death to join the EDA to save the planet. His father, like him, was also a nerd growing up and that is where Zack got most of it. Zack spent his whole childhood going through his father’s stuff watching the classic movies, playing the video games, and listening to his mix tape. (The mix tape is written in the back of the book! I found it on spotify instantly.)
Zack arrives at the secret location hoping to find his father, but he does not. He instead meets some of the other highest ranking players from the top 10 in Armada. It seems he was specially recruited with other high ranking players to become officers in the alliance. Zack also meets his new love interest in the auditorium while they wait to be briefed. Of course she is a super hot video game nerd who happens to like him almost instantly.
After a brief program explaining the history of learning about the aliens some 40 years ago, there was a giant swastika on the side of Europa that we noticed and went to research further. We made contact with the aliens while trying to check for life signs and they started war with us immediately for disrupting their sanctuary of Europa. We learn the whole alien armada is set to attack in a few hours. The base is soon attacked as soon as the video finished. They have no time to do anything but react and start the fight. This is where the book picks up and the action doesn’t stop. They all rush to the pods to take control of the drones to fight. It is an epic scene as Zack uses his awesome video game skills to fight off the alien invasion. He does make a mistake and tries to be a hero while ignoring the Admiral’s orders and blows up the stockpile of extra drones.
With the battle being won, they new recruits are assigned to their new roles and where they will be placed. Zack is placed…on moon base alpha! They have a secret moon base! Just like in the game! He travels there with the other ranked 6-10 armada players to meet his father, the general Xavier, at the moon base. They finally get to reunite and get to know each other before the giant invasion is on its way. Xavier tells him of his conspiracy theories about the whole alien situation.
The next part is them hanging out on the moon before the invasion occurs. The invasion starts and they fight. They quickly lose the moon base and have to escape back to Earth. They come back to save the planet during the first wave of the invasion and head back to Zack’s hometown. His father and mother are finally reunited and it is then that his mother gets pregnant with his soon to be baby brother. They then come up with the plan to stop the super weapon that is being sent to destroy Europa. We learn that the conspiracies were true, and that Earth was the one who first started the attack. They sent a nuke to blow up Europa with the second probe. This is what really caused the war to start and the test for Earth to begin.
The novel finishes with Zack saving the planet and sparing the alien world by stopping the weapon sent to destroy Europa. His father made a sacrifice and they lost friends on the way. The alien race speaks to Zack after he made the choice to save Europa to tell him he had stopped the invasion. It was a test for Earth the whole time and they want to invite Earth into their intergalactic alliance and choose him at the main ambassador. Zack still doesn’t trust the Europan’s after the previous trickery and becomes an ambassador only to figure out what is really going to happen.
At the end he saves the planet, gets the girl, and has a happy story ending. (Yay!)