Armada, by Ernest Cline
After reading the author’s first book , one of my coworkers loaned this book to me and has been bugging me since then just about every day if I have read it yet until I finally got around to reading it. I thought it was a good book, and wouldn’t be surprised if a movie is made out of it someday, assuming that the author’s previous adaptation is a success. When I was in high school I wrote one of my college essays based on a book about alien encounters that is similar to this, where the plot boils around the ability of humankind to successfully pass a test in order to avoid total annihilation, with the test itself not being one that is military in nature but rather one that is based on maturity and the capacity for unity and moral restraint. As someone who reads way more than my fair share of books relating to aliens , I find that there are a great deal of similarities between them and I think that it would be worthwhile explaining them in some detail, even if it makes this a somewhat unusual review.
For the second straight time, this atheistic writer whose protagonists are not necessarily god fearing people either has constructed a novel that points unmistakably at intelligent design. A lot of this is because of the author’s abiding interest in early video games, which are a hallmark of intelligent design. The author’s interest in worldbuilding unsurprisingly leads him to imitate God, even though he claims not to believe. This is all the more relevant because alien stories are themselves a way that a rebellious humankind attempts to deal with the unpleasant reality of God’s rule over earth and the fact that He may come to reclaim His territory at any time He chooses. Alien stories sometimes show the powerful invaders to have some sort of hidden vulnerability that allows an embattled humanity to prevail, and sometimes the plot is based around the powerful aliens merely testing humanity, thus being capable of emotional or diplomatic appeals. Of course, the response of God to the efforts of humankind to resist His rule will not be according to either of these plans. Only unconditional surrender will be accepted. Unfortunately, writers of alien stories do not seem to view this as an acceptable plot.
The book itself is, as you might have guessed, a novel about an alien encounter. In particular, the novel has the premise that certain video games were training by the world’s militaries for an upcoming war with aliens. The main character, a young man with an anger management issue and a high degree of skill in a game known as Armada, is invited as part of an elite team to save the world from alien invasion, but the patterns he notices and his meeting up with his long-lost father convince him that the war is a setup and that another way is possible. Without spoiling the ending or too many of the twists, this novel is an example of a writer working within a comfort zone–lots of 80’s video game and music references, a focus on areas the author is familiar with like the Portland area, specifically Beaverton here, and a praise of cleverness over brute force, an acceptable romantic subplot, and a certain degree of hostility towards authority and the chain of command. To be sure, this novel is not as good as the author’s previous work, but it’s still a solid novel and there is much to enjoy here.
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