Have you read this before? yes. Yes you have.
Sometimes you read a book full of pop culture references with a cool story about a video game player and you think, “I wish Steven Spielberg would make a movie out of this.” And sometimes the author of that book writes a second book that proves that was a one time experience. Welcome to Armada by Ernest Cline.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Actually, scratch that, don’t stop me because you have heard it before but read this review anyway.
From the opening moments of this book, I kept wondering what science fiction story this was ripping off. The answer? All of them. I mean it. There is pretty much no science fiction story here that is not referenced or mimicked in this book. It is so chocked full of direct quotes and references that I began to wonder what percentage of a book has to be original not to be considered plagiarized. I know that a lot of people like Easter eggs and find them fun when you can recognize them in books or movies. I like it too, especially in a Marvel film that might give a hint of what’s to come. But this wasn’t like that. It was more like the Easter bunny firing a rapid fire Easter egg grenade launcher at your face.
I wish that was the only problem with this book but boy, howdy, is this thing a walking disaster.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re a senior in High School on his last semester who has daddy issues because your father died in a sewage treatment explosion just after you were born. To deal with the tragedy, you spend your life obsessed with all the video games, movies, books and music that your father left behind. You play a new game called Armada but are a little worried about your mental state because your father left some notebooks behind with a timeline that seems kinda crazy. Not only that but the notebook makes it seem like there is a global conspiracy to cover up the fact that we have already made contact with aliens. Then you see a spaceship that looks directly like the one from Armada. Your boss who is a used video game store owner shows up with a secretive government agency right out of the video game you happen to be really good at. You get recruited to fight against these aliens by playing your favorite video game that is now real. Lucky for you, you are recruited moments before you were about to beat up a guy with a tire iron because he said bad stuff about your dad. While waiting around to get the full story, you meet a beautiful girl who is smart and also an awesome video game player who is instantly attracted to you. Carl Sagan then gives you a briefing about the aliens and how every science fiction movie, book, or video game has been used to get the population prepared for the knowledge that aliens are out there. Not only that, Star Wars, and all the cool stuff you love, was actually funded by the government for that very purpose. Oh, and not only that but the video games you have been playing happen to function the exact way the real weapons that the government has reverse engineered from the aliens work. Since the whole world plays video games, our best and brightest aren’t people like astronauts and math geniuses, it’s actually the people who have been logging the most online hours playing video games. This all seems pretty weird to you but you roll with it because you feel like you were always meant for some bigger destiny. You are also shocked and amazed at every single new revelation in the whole thing. Like you see the video game ship in real life and go, “That’s not possible.” Then you are taken into a big old government training facility and see the guy from the video game and go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real, I don’t believe the dude is real” And then you find out your dad is alive and had been recruited by the video game dude years ago and you go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real and the dude is real, I don’t actually believe my dad is alive.” And then they take you to the moon to meet your dad and you go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real, that the video game dude is real, that my dad is alive, I still didn’t really believe there was a moon base…” (Ok, I think you get the point.) Then on your first mission with the real drones you screw up but still get to fight because, you’re still good at the video game. Then your dad tells you all about how he figured out there was this conspiracy and not only that, your dad thinks that the aliens may not actually want to kill us. Then you watch your dad almost die trying to prove his point. Because you have a very hard time believing things that are clearly obvious, you still don’t quite believe him so you go back to your home town of Beaverton, Oregon and run it by your two best friends. They argue a lot, while your mom and dad get reacquainted and you convince everyone your dad was right. Well, almost everyone because the video game guy doesn’t believe it and wants to blow the aliens to kingdom come. So, now you need your two best friends, the people you met on the moon base, your dad, and the hot girl you met at the mission briefing to help you out while you go blow up the super weapon that Earth has come up with before we do something really stupid and get the whole planet destroyed by these aliens. You are also able to excuse global warming and a whole host of other problems because clearly the aliens are a bigger threat. So, after your dad actually gets himself killed, on the day that you finally met him, you go after the weapon and blow that to kingdom come. Then the aliens start talking to you and telling you that humanity has just passed “the test” so we’re all good now, welcome to a new galactic society that you as the dude who blew up that weapon get to decide if we are joining or not. Thankfully you say yes because no would have meant that the aliens would blow us up anyway. Also, the aliens aren’t aliens but actually just some kind of robotic thing that was left behind on Europa to, you know, watch us. Then you go back home, get to run the used video game store, are a celebrity, sign an autograph for the guy you almost beat with a tire iron that one time, get married to the beautiful girl you met at the briefing, and have a kid you name after yourself and your father. Then you basically get to live out a normal happy life.
Spoiler alert. Shoot, probably should have put that up higher.
Here’s a few answers to if this has happened to you from some random people I polled on the street.
Ender Wiggins [Ender’s Game] – “Sounds pretty familiar but it was a little different”
Alex Rogan [The Last Starfighter] – “I think I was in that story”
Doug Masters [Iron Eagle] – “Well, there were no aliens but my dad’s plane did get shot down”
Well, there you have it folks, it’s a pretty common occurrence. Even with that being said, I still had more problems with this book.
- I actually listened to this as an audiobook and while I love ya Will Wheaton, your Carl Sagan somehow sounds exactly like George Takei. How is that even possible?
- They claim that the government funded Star Wars??? Hands off my favorite film franchise man, I’m not having it! It made me want to get Daisy Ridley to slice the book in half with a lightsaber.
- It made zero sense to me that the government goes to all that expense of cover ups to then just be like, yup there are aliens everyone, watch out when the aliens attack
- There are a lot of crazy things in this book and I am pretty good at suspending my disbelief but there is no way that Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson all went in on the covering aliens up thing. Not a freaking chance, period. To me, this was the least believable thing in the book.
- They recruit these gamers under complete duress and basically kidnap them and tell them they can either sign up or wimp out cause the aliens are about to attack. The second I got back from that, I am hiring a good lawyer and getting out of this contract.
- Finally, this book was just such a huge disappointment because Ernest Cline has written a good book. I hope he has it in him to pull out another good story, but man am I going to be hesitant to give it a try.
Next week I am going to get off the Sci-Fi bandwagon and give a read to Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. I wasn’t sure which Duke she was talking about but it’s romancing the Duke, so it’s that one.