Armada Chapter 1: The Flying Saucer He Saw

it's still a mystery spongebob gif

In the spirit of all the references in this book, I thought I’d give you guys a title from an obscure show I bet no one watched! Do you know what it is? Do you care? Probably not! But read on to the end of the post to find out!

Armada Chapter 1:

We open with our protagonist Zack sitting in math class, immediately spotting a flying saucer. We don’t technically learn his name yet or that he’s in math class, but we already know he’s seen some seriously crazy shit today. Take a girl to dinner first, book.

I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.

I think it’s supposed to be a zany and catchy opening, but I was not captivated by you yet.

Zack describes in great detail how the flying saucer moves around woah oooh ahhh. We do at least get this cute line out of it:

I tried to keep my cool. I tried to remain skeptical. I reminded myself that I was a man of science, even if I did usually get a C in it.

Zack sort of keeps his cool in that he doesn’t start shouting in class, but inwardly he’s pumped as fuck because he has been waiting since the first day of kindergarten for something like this to happen to him. I get that. I have been waiting my whole life to finally find out that I’m Sailor Moon. If a talking cat was like, “Try shouting ‘Moon power, make up!”, I’d try to play it cool, but definitely give it a go.

This is extra crazy because Zack is from a boring place where nothing happens! Why would the aliens come here, he wonders? I don’t know, Zack, maybe they realized Time Square and Leicester Square and all the other fucking tourist squares in cities around the world are boring and terrible and just breeding grounds for Burger Kings and Pizza Huts to emerge from fully formed.

Zack thinks about telling his friends what’s going on:

I considered trying to get their attention, but I was worried the object might vanish any second, and I didn’t want to miss my chance to see this for myself.

I don’t know what I would have done in this situation. I’m leaning towards getting someone’s attention and then if it turned out nothing was there, I would have been like, “Oh, it was a cool plane, guess it passed by already.” Keeping it real cool.

That was when I felt my brain begin to short-circuit, because there was no mistaking the craft’s distinctive design. After all, I’d seen it almost every night for the past few years, through a targeting reticle. I was looking at a Sobrukai Glaive, one of the fighter ships piloted by the alien bad guys in Armada, my favorite videogame.

Given Zack starts to wonder if he hallucinated the whole thing, the fact that it’s something out of one of his video games would either lead me to that same conclusion or make me wonder if someone had launched a really successful, bizarre Kickstarter fund, but he barely thinks about this obviously hugely important fact.

Instead, we get something along the lines of, “Wow, I must be imagining things! My dead father was crazy, so it’s probably genetic. Also, my dad had a journal with mysterious and scary things written in it, which is obviously going to become hugely important in the plot later!”

it's still a mystery spongebob gif

This seems like a really good opportunity for him to actually be concerned about this? ‘Hey what are the chances that I’m seeing a flying saucer and it’s out of my favourite video game. I probably am imagining this, and that’s pretty scary.’ But no.

Had I been drugged? No, impossible. All I’d eaten that morning was a raw strawberry Pop-Tart I’d wolfed down in my car on the way to school— and the only thing crazier than hallucinating a fictional videogame spaceship would be to blame it on a frosted breakfast pastry. Especially if I knew my own DNA was a far more likely culprit.

This guy feels like the male Zoey Redbird to me. If he starts thinking about how pop tarts are giving him diarrhea I will be sure of this.

Zack cheerfully decides he’s to blame for being like his dad and escaping reality with things like video games (he’s a man of science, so I trust him).

The space craft disappears, so now Zack really wants to leave class to go home and read his father’s mysterious journal that used to seem crazy, but now seems not so crazy. Zack can’t just leave class, though. He describes his inattentive math teacher in great detail, and then tells us how a bully is bothering a nerdy kid in class. Zack had a mysterious incident with this bully previously, so it’s bad they’re in the same class. Also, Zack’s ex-girlfriend is in the class. At least she isn’t teaching his math class, so he’s not quite Zoey yet.

Thank god Zack’s best friends are in this class! I bet they are two colourful, distinct characters:

I glanced back at them again. Diehl, who was tall and thin, and Cruz, who was short and stocky, both shared the same first name, Michael. Ever since grade school I had been calling them by their last names to avoid confusion. The Mikes were still engaged in the same whispered conversation they’d been having earlier, before I’d zoned out and started seeing things— a debate over the “coolest melee weapon in the history of cinema.” I tried to focus in on their voices again now.

Zack tunes into their debate, and they are incredibly indistinguishable thus far, I can assure you. Good thing we can see that one is tall and one is short so we can tell them apart.

After watching Knotcher the bully keep bothering the other kid, Zack decides he’s had enough. He also thinks about the space craft he saw, and this “crank[s] up the tension in [his] nerves a few more notches.” NOTHING CAN HOLD THE BOY BACK NOW.

When I reached Knotcher, I didn’t do what I wanted to, which was to grab him by his hair and slam his face into his desktop as hard as I could, again and again.

Instead, I reached down and scooped up the soggy pile of gray spitballs resting on the floor behind Casey’s chair. I used both hands to pack them all together in a single wet ball, then slapped it down directly on the top of Knotcher’s head. It made an extremely satisfying splat sound.

The teacher finally notices that there is some shit going down in his class, and is like, “Stop.” So Zack rage-leaves the class and school, presumably to read his father’s mysterious journal.

I definitely don’t like this book, but it’s got a few lines here and there that I like. Mainly, though, it managed to feel both incredibly rushed and incredibly boring. We got thrown a ton of plot points at us at once while also just remaining in Zack’s head the whole time being like, “Woah! Flying saucer!” and then “I’m mad at this bully in class…sort of because of a flying saucer!”

To me, the references feel really forced and shoehorned in rather than it actually enhancing my understanding of the characters or bringing them to life in any way. It feels like a game of ‘How many times can the narrator make a reference to pop culture in a chapter?’ I know I left out most of them because it felt really weird to just quote them and be like, “Look at this reference to Say Anything, now look at this one about AC/DC and now look at this one about Thor.” Like just take my word on this one.

But maybe some readers find this really fun and endearing? I’m not entirely sure who the target audience really is here. People who liked House of Night, but felt like there weren’t enough references, and they wanted less vampyres and more video games? I don’t know.

Oh, and the title is a Gundam Wing reference to an episode called “The Shooting Star She Saw.” I am cool like Zack and Zoey.

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3 comments

  1. Jennifer Layton

    I’m sorry … there was a pile of soggy spitballs on the floor, and Zack picked it up with his bare hands? Ew ew ew ew ew ew …

    And he’s eating a raw Pop Tart. If he starts drinking brown pop, and the two Mikes start bumping and grinding, I am outta here.

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  2. bookbaron

    Who the hell calls eating a poptart out of the package, eating it raw? It’s a normal poptart.

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  3. bookbaron

    And are spitballs even still a thing in school. I feel like that was a dated reference even when I was back in high school. I’ve never seen a bully do that outside movies and TV shows.

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