The Next Starfighter
Release Date: OUT NOW!
345 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Ernest Cline Publisher: Century Books
Ernest Cline’s previous
novel, Ready Player One, made clear that he’s not a writer afraid of wearing his influences on his sleeve. Indeed, he also wears them on his lapels, trouser legs and on a giant papier- mache hat shaped like the Death Star. References to science fiction, fantasy and ’ 80s pop culture abound, and as such he doesn’t expect his readers not to notice that his new novel is a take on 1984 film The Last Starfighter. He acknowledges it, embraces it and takes it to new places.
There’s some common ground with Ready Player One – the world is obsessed with a computer game – but Armada takes place in the present day. Its hero, Zack Lightman, is sixth on the global leaderboard for MMO warfare game Armada. Of course, it turns out Armada is actually a training sim for a forthcoming conflict with an alien race, and Zack is recruited to the military. But is there more to this war than he’s being told?
Sometimes the geek references get a little wearing: sometimes they’re over- explained when they could be worn more lightly, and sometimes they feel like easy gags. The characterisation can feel a bit off- the- peg, and plays up to nerdboy power fantasies. But as with Ready Player One, Cline’s strength is his thriller- like plotting, which is the rigid spine under the in- joke froth and makes the book immensely readable. Eddie Robson Steven Spielberg reportedly wanted to remake The Last Starfighter, but found the rights impossible to acquire.