Armada: Chapter 6
The brand new Armada mission starts with a rousing bit of – that’s right – Zack explaining more rules. I know I was hoping to get an entire page explaining that the game has a virtual copilot and why Zack chose the voice that he did for it. That’s just verisimilitude, like how every book published after 2011 devotes pages to which accent every single character chose for Siri.
Zack also (more usefully) explains that the game primarily revolves around flying a drone, but flying faster, firing weapons, and taking hits to your shields all use up your limited energy. There’s also a last-resort self-destruct mechanic. I can’t wait to see if any of this matters after this chapter once we
realize this book is basically just Ender’s Game learn the game isn’t just a game. Starlord Zack puts on some music from his dead mother’s father’s old mixtape. (I checked. Guardians of the Galaxy came out a year before Armada.) And then the game begins! Unsurprisingly, Zack and his friends have even lamer lingo when they pump themselves up to play video games than they did in real life.
He shouted, “Cry havoc!”
When neither of us followed suit, he cleared his throat loudly over the comm. “Uh, why didn’t either of you cry havoc with me just now?” he asked. “You bitches best be crying me some havoc! You want to jinx us?”
“Sorry, Dealio,” I said. Then, as loud as I could, I shouted, “Cry havoc!”
God damn, is the dialogue in this book clumsy. Is the joke that his joke wasn’t that funny? Then why bother taking more time for Zack to join in? Aren’t we currently going to war? Even if it’s a game, who talks like this in the heat of the moment?
“I just lost my gorram shields because I’m already out of frakkin’ power!”
“Dude,” Cruz said. “You shouldn’t mix swears from different universes.”
“Says who?” Diehl shot back. “Besides, what if BSG and Firefly took place in the same universe? You ever consider that?”
Times where it is reasonable to nitpick include: editing or writing this blog. Times where it is a little less believable that people are nitpicking: concentrating on dodging bullets.
Once again, sure, I get that they’re just playing a video game, even if they’re taking it very seriously. And it’s totally fair to assume they spend a lot of time talking about their favorite tv shows. But if someone tried to strike up a conversation with me about SpongeBob while I was playing Dark Souls or something, I would not be like, “I believe that it was already sharply going down in quality before Stephen Hillenburg left after the third season, which can be seen in the inconsistent characterization in the movie he spearheaded”. I’d be more like, “I’m fucking doing something else right now, guys.”
We get reminded that there’s ostensibly a plot outside of all the video games that’s totally gonna show up any chapter now.
I held my breath as I targeted one of the lead Glaives. I felt like I had a grudge to settle with the damn thing, for escaping from my fantasy life to invade my reality – and making me question my own sanity in the process.
Ok, but how much sanity questioning is Zack really doing? After he ditched school, he thought about his dad and sci fi pop culture, went to work, talked with his mom about college, and is playing a video game he plays every day. This is all pretty Normal Day In The Life Of Zack so far, when you think about what we’ve actually read so far.
Zack tells us that this is an incredibly tough mission because of the size of the battle and the high skill required. This is what he tells us, but based on the book I’m reading, it sounds more like it’s a tough mission because everyone playing it is kind of a moron.
“Guys, I’ve got two Glaives on my tail,” Diehl announced. “Any help?”
“Help yourself, pal!” I heard Cruz say. “We’re all getting our asses handed to us!” […]
[T]he Icebreaker had been firing its melt laser for less than a minute, and the Sobrukai had already destroyed nearly half of our Interceptors. Reinforcements were still pouring out of the Doolittle’s hangar, but these drones were all piloted by players who had already gotten themselves killed once, and most of them would be destroyed a second time within seconds of rejoining the battle.
Cruz was right— we weren’t going to be able to hold them off long enough.
“Screw this,” I said. “I’m gonna try and create a diversion.”
“Where are you going?” Cruz said over the comm. “Protect the Icebreaker, dumb ass!”
“Sorry, Cruz!” I said, pushing my throttle forward. “But you’ll never guess who just showed up. Leeeeeeroyyy—”
I mean, I’m no military tactician, but the following points should be pretty obvious…
- Maybe they’re getting their asses kicked because everyone is trying to lone wolf hero their way through this huge battle and not one character is shown talking about strategy or coordination or teamwork or anything.
- Case in point: even when someone asks for help, no one can help because everyone is in trouble. This seems like the sort of thing a basic formation should not render a total impossibility?
- For those of you who don’t know, “Leeeeeeroyyy” is a reference to a joke on the internet that was funny a whole eleven years ago.
Zack’s plan doesn’t work well enough and everyone loses the mission anyway. The book is also not doing a great job convincing us that Zack is actually that good at this game.
The digital deaths of my two best friends distracted me just long enough to take another series of direct hits
The chapter ends with Zack going to the closet and pulling out his dad’s old baseball jacket, which is covered in patches relating to his championed social justice issues. Lol jk they’re all about video games. Armada is just a little one-note.