Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Most Disappointing Read of 2015
The premise of Armada is something very similar to movie The Last Starfighter. In both stories a young man who is good at a video game (arcade games in The Last Starfighter and computer games in Armada) gets recruited by a secret organization, who was using the game to train and recruit people, to fight aliens in space and Earth using the technology that was in game. The difference between that movie and this book is that in Armada its not the 80's but modern times, though the history of using video games to recruit people does go back to arcade games in the book, and in Armada the alien invasion directly affects and comes to Earth whereas in The Last Starfighter the fight is way out in space against an enemy that may affect Earth if they are not stopped.
This similarity should not be a major problem since many a story in the history of storytelling begs, borrows, and steals from each other. There is nothing new under the sun. This is especially true of Ernest Cline and his love for Geek culture and the 1980's as well as making video games more a part of a person's life than just entertainment, as seen in his first book Ready Player One. It seems like the perfect fit for Mr. Cline to take the premise of The Last Starfighter, where video games have a direct and significant impact to our world, and give it his own twist. It seemed like an interesting idea. I had such high hopes for Armada. I wanted it to be as good as Cline's first book.
It was not.
Armada stands on its on legs as being a truly disappointing read. The comparison between The Last Starfighter, though fitting for Cline's literary milieu, was too on the nose. If you have never seen the movie then I can understand how this book might be fun to read. But with video games becoming a greater part of people's lives, to the point that e-sports is getting ESPN recognition, this book seems to have come a bit too late. The story is not only too tongue in cheek in borrowing from The Last Starfighter but this kind of story has been done to death in all mediums from TV, movies, and even in video games themselves.
Another major problem I had with this book was the ending (what a surprise). Armada is written in such a way that it seems self-contained. A one and done story, not the beginning of a series and yet the open ended-ness of the book seems to beg for the next stage of the saga that will never come. I'm not sure if Cline is going to write any more books concerning this story and if he doesn't then the ending to Armada, though the most fitting for the story, is too open about the possibilities. The ending seemed like it wanted to leave the reader with deep questions to ponder about the future of mankind if it was put in this particular situation but instead I was left with not questions at all. I was only left with apathy.
So I guess this book was okay. Or bad. Somewhere in between those two. Either way I would not recommend you read it. Go read Cline's first book Ready Player One instead.