The main character in this book is Zack Lightman. For Zack, video games are his life. He thinks about video games during the day and while he works after school at the video game arcade. When he gets home, he sits down to play Armada and transforms from Zack into IronBeagle, a fighter pilot with the Earth Defense Alliance. Armada is a popular online flight simulator game where members of the Earth Defense Alliance fight against alien invaders who seek to destroy Earth. Zack is one of the best players and is ranked in the top 10.
One day at school, Zack sees a flying saucer that looks exactly like the ones in Armada, right down to the decorations on the wings. Zack worries that he’s hallucinating and losing his mind, just like his father did before he died. However, when the next day he is picked up by the real Earth Defense Alliance, he learns that it’s all real. The space ships are real, the aliens are real, the Earth Defense Alliance is real. Zack is taken to an underground bunker where he learns the government has known about aliens for decades and has been using videogames to train gamers to fight without knowing it. Zack finds himself in the middle of a global conspiracy, where governments have been using everything from movies to televisions shows to video games to prepare citizens for the truth – that aliens are real and they most likely are coming to destroy the Earth.
When the underground base is attacked, Zack learns that a full scale alien invasion will happen in 8 hours. The only thing standing between Earth and the aliens is Zack and the millions of gamers fighting from their game consoles.I liked this book. It was very reminiscent of Ender’s Game but I believe that was the point. The book takes inspiration from pop culture paraphernalia such as Ender’s Game, Iron Eagle, Independence Day, and The Last Starfighter. The point was that all those movies and books where videogamers save the world from alien invasions – it was all just a precursor, a warm-up, leading to the real deal – so that when aliens did attack, everyone would think, “I can do it; it’s just like Ender’s Game.”
A lot of the plot is played out in video games so if you don’t like reading about video games or virtual reality, you might not like this book. There’s a lot of action and fight scenes between robots and drones in this story. There are plenty of descriptions of playing video games and this book has a lot of similarities with the author’s first book, Ready Player One. I read Ready Player One a couple of years ago and I really liked it. But this book is not Ready Player One part 2. While the two are similar (both are based on video games and virtual reality), the plots are different and Armada doesn’t contain the nostalgia that was so present in Ready Player One.
I’m not sure how I felt about the end of this book however. It kind of left me with a “huh” feeling. It’s not a bad ending, it just wasn’t what I expected.
I look forward to the next book by Ernest Cline, whatever it may be.