by Ernest Cline
Crown, 2015. 349 pgs. Science Fiction
Ernest Cline begins his newest gaming novel thrill ride with a quote from Eugene Jarvis: "The only legitimate use of a computer is to play games." In this book, it's a lucky thing that a significant number of the earth's population feels this way, when they discover that what they thought was a worldwide slacker-fest playing games called Terra Firma and Armada was actually a secret government training exercise to prepare thousands of gamers to defend the planet against enemy aliens from a swastika-emblazoned Europa. Our hero in this fight is Zack Lightman, a high school kid with a bad temper who lives with his single mother and who is not really good at anything except video games. His recruitment into the Earth Defense Alliance, and the surprising discoveries he makes as his real drones battle enemy forces, lead into a fast and fun gamer tale. Just like on the glowing screens where virtual reality plays out, Armada skips quickly over the sad bits which good escape fiction should do. Cline's multiple references to classic sci-fi films and themes, and his use of them in his story, serve as both tribute and substance of this fun summertime read. Well-suited for older teen readers, though their is a fair amount of swearing.