Ernest Cline’s Armada Invades Science Fiction

 

cline-armada-largeHas it really taken us nearly one hundred years – or even eighty – to get to the point where the characters in science fiction are themselves aware of science fiction? That self-consciousness seems essential to the sorts of folks who end up in science fiction novels. Meet Zack Lightman, the kid at school who plays way too much Armada, a video game about alien invasion. Soon enough, of course, a saucer from the game shows up outside his schoolroom window, and his world gets s good deal more surreal.

As with Ready Player One, Cline trades on his encyclopedic knowledge of both video games and science fiction, and has a lot of fun doing so. But for all the in-jokes and cross-referencing going on here, it’s important to remember that Cline is working in a literary genre, that is, the novel – and the intricate structure he creates is primarily literary. Armada is not a video game. Cline knows that he’s working with the reader to create this world, not simply unreeling a series of special effects. We do care about the characters, and the science-fiction fantasies play out against a rather droll suburban backdrop.   If you’re inclined to think that Armada is just about alien invasions, think again. Let the saucers arrive. Those who have to fight them now have a pretty damn good job opportunity.

Of course, sitting down to talk with Ernest Cline about this novel is itself a rather different digression. It’s all about digging into the fun stuff behind the special literary effects.

Here’s a link to our short form interview, about 5 minutes long.

Or you can listen here.

Here’s a link to the in-depth conversation, almost an hour.

Or, settle back and listen here. Your boss won’t know what’s coming out of the headphones.

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