Evidently not long before I started this blog, Ernest Klien released an absolutely fabulous book filled to the brim with geekery and a neat message or five named Ready Player One. I won't go into it here, but yeah, if you haven't read it, go do so now.
Anyway, he recently released a second novel, not set in the same universe, but with similar themes of geek saving the day. Armada starts with our narrator, Zach Lightman introducing his life as a Senior in High School in the Pacific Northwest. He has a reputation as a bit crazy, his father died not long after he was born, he works part time at a computer gaming shop, and he, like most of the world, is playing one of two MMO games by the same company. Zach is more involved with Armada, which is the space combat against the Europans, while most of his friends prefer Terra Firma, which involves the Europan invasion of Earth on the ground. It bears mentioning that Zach is number 6 on the pilot leader board.
Things get shaken up first by Zach seeing a real Glaive fighter flying around his hometown, which makes him doubt his sanity. He re examines some of his dead father's conspiracy theory filled notebooks. Then a real life ship from Armada lands on his school's lawn, his boss walks out and recruits him for the real life Earth Defense Agency that had supposedly only existed in the twin MMOs.
We come to find out that the Europan invasion is real, they're invading, and all the people who've been playing the MMOs have been being trained to pilot the real drones into combat both in space and on Earth when the first wave of the Armada arrives. We find out that we discovered the existence of life on Europa when Voyager 1 dropped by and found a giant icy swastika on the southern hemisphere. We sent greetings, and in return got warning that we had committed a hostile act, and that they were prepared to destroy humanity.
Mind you, the occasional invasion attempt has left humanity time to reverse engineer our own technology to better combat the Europan invaders.
If elements of this plot line sound really familiar, it's supposed to be. Seems that most science fiction has been designed to prepare the world for the oncoming invasion.
And what fun it is. The characters get mostly fleshed out enough that we care about their fates, we feel for Zach and his daddy issues. We even get to deal with one of the dumber tropes that plague genre fiction, wherein the noble gay folk sacrifice themselves to save the heterosexuals who can stop the whatever the big bad winds up being.
It's a really fun book. It reminded me quite a bit of the movie Scream, even if no one tried to fit a massive chest out a dog door. But the idea of characters knowing they're trapped in a trope and then trying to figure out ways to work within that trope or break out of it entirely
Well worth reading, even with it's few brief RUSH references.