Ar­mada

The Next Starfighter

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Rated / Books -

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.

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