This is the first chapter of Part Three, so hopefully that means actual story will start happening right about now.
Armada: Chapter 22
Zack is dismayed that his self-endangering search to find his dad, who’s probably already dead anyway, underneath the arctic ocean isn’t working.
Sitting there in the darkness, waiting for it all to just end, I found myself thinking about Lex.
Super weird that this is the first time Zack’s sounded like a normal teenager to me.
It turns out that angstily thinking about his teenage crush and his mortality is a good thing for Zack (back to fiction, I see), because he remembers that one of the QComm hacks she showed him can help him lock onto his dad’s location.
I repeated the steps Lex had shown me to perform her “remote location hack.” It involved pressing several icons on my display in rapid order, like the old Konami code.
Oh my God, Armada, we get it. Things are like video games.
I caught a horrifying glimpse of his limp and lifeless face, just a few inches away from mine.
It was covered in blood.
We immediately learn he’s not actually dead, which I’m weirdly bummed out by because killing off Zack’s dad with that would have been amazing.
Zack uses a retrieval arm that we just learned exists to scoop up his dad’s ship after seeing his vitals, which we also just learned he can do. Zack’s dad is unconscious and most likely has a concussion, and his ship is administering automated medical care.
The computer calculated a sixty-seven percent chance that he had suffered a concussion [and provided] me with a running list of the treatment and drugs that the pod was administering to its occupant.
Is it weird if the most unrealistic part of this novel for me so far is that the government would put this much expensive shit in all of these ships?
The computer informs Zack that his dad needs medical attention immediately and gives him a route to an EDA med center in South America. Zack instead decides to fly home and texts his mom to meet him at home with a first aid kit. Good thinking, Zack. No part of this plan is awful.
As Zack flies home, he gets his first glimpse at the damage caused by the first wave of the invasion.
Portland’s charred and smoking skyline […] looked like a scene out of Deep Impact or World War Z.
Really. The aftermath of an alien invasion looked like a scene out of a zombie movie? There wasn’t a more relevant pop culture reference than that?
Zack listens to the news coverage, which is weirdly upbeat. I think? Zack keeps expressing disappointment, but it’s not clear what he’s disappointed about.
“In addition to the Earth Defense Alliance’s decisive victory in Pakistan,” one male news anchor was saying, “news of dozens of other victories are pouring in from other cities around the world. The tide began to turn after the aliens’ surprise attacks on Shanghai and Cairo—”
I frowned and switched to another network
To be fair, I can point out what I’m disappointed about (although I have to praise that I think Armada hit this nail distressingly on the head):
“In every engagement we’ve had with the enemy so far, it has become obvious that humans are naturally more adept at combat […] Despite their vastly superior numbers and technology, the Europans appear to lack our reflexes and natural predatory instincts—”
But what in that first quote was Zack disappointed out? That excerpt is the first bit of broadcast in the book (I didn’t cut anything), and it’s not as full of smug superiority, so…
The last broadcast Zack listens to is Admiral Vance more soberingly reminding humanity that there are two, larger waves of the invasion still headed to earth. Zack worries about how their remaining forces can’t possibly withstand the next waves of the invasion, but is more distressed by the new evidence supporting his dad’s theory that the aliens aren’t exactly hostile.
I tried to forget about the news, and thought again of my father’s heroic act of self-sacrifice, performed in the wake of Chén’s kamikaze run. It shouldn’t have worked. But it had— just as my father had predicted it would.
Quick side note: Ernest Cline’s only other novel, Ready Player One, ALSO features an Asian character suddenly sacrificing himself in a fit of uncontrollable rage in a climactic battle. This is a little awkward.
I shouldn’t need any more convincing— and, I decided right then, I didn’t.
“I’m sorry I doubted you, Dad,” I said to him over the comlink, while I stared at his unconscious face on my monitor, his eyes closed and his forehead caked with dried blood. “And I’m sorry I couldn’t bring myself to call you ‘Dad’ before now, too, okay?“
Wait, that was an issue? Was that a thing?
Zack flies back to his hometown (and “swooped down looking for a spot to land” which is exactly when I realized that Zack has probably never had to land an aircraft before since his flight experience just comes the video game, and I can’t think of a single space shooter where I ever had to land, so…) and, uh, does this thing:
I swung around and flew back over the school, but this time I strafed the roof of the gym with laser fire. Then I made another pass and strafed it again, until the whole roof collapsed. Once the dust settled, I lowered my Interceptor down into the gym, concealing it perfectly from view, except from directly above.
The school superintendent was going to be pissed about the damage, but he could bill me.
Soooo maybe this is just Zack venting his rage (it’s been quite a day, after all), but it’s not made particularly clear that he’s not just indulging some unsettling teenage fantasy. Because this is the entire passage. And how does Zack know no one’s there, anyway? How is Zack so weirdly unsettling?
Zack gets his dad, who’s slowly starting to come to, into his car, and there is this genuinely cute moment:
“Just rest. We’ll be home soon.”
“Wow, really?” he said, smiling faintly. “I’ve never been home.”
…which leads to this mildly bonkers moment when the family reunion finally happens.
he took a step toward her, and she threw her arms around him. He buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply. […] I heard barking, and a second later, Muffit burst out of his doggie door. The old beagle barked and bounded down the front step and across the law, moving faster than he had in years.
HOW FUCKING OLD IS THIS DOG?
Overwhelmed by happiness (which Zack explains is “unbridled joy” and that “up until this moment I’d only ever experienced the bridled kind”, which, ok, sure, Zack), Zack gets his second wind, suddenly wanting “very much for the world not to end”. Zack goes to check in on his best friends Diehl and Cruz. Remember them? I fucking don’t. They were in like two chapters.
As quickly as I could, I told the Mikes everything that had happened since we’d last seen each other.
Did you remember that they both have the first name Mike? Fuck no!
They agree that his dad’s theory sounds right. There’s another whole set of pages of “It just doesn’t make sense!”, which is really starting to grate on me since that’s usually my job. Zack tries calling Finn Argobast, who is initially delighted to hear he’s alive, but gets super annoyed and hangs up once Zack tries to talk “maybe the aliens aren’t bad” theory with him.
“I don’t see the point in this conversation,” he said. “We debated all of this with your father years ago, and I’m not going to go through it again now with you, kid. I mean, look around you! Our enemy’s motives are obviously no longer in question!” He pointed to the giant map of the world behind him. “The Europans just killed over thirty million people“
But Zack reveals that the real purpose of the call was actually to do Lex’s contact-exchanging hack on Finn Argobast, and Zack looks through his new contacts until he finds the Armistice Council. He calls them next and it’s… well, it’s definitely an Ernest Cline novel.
The first was Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and the second was Dr. Stephen Hawking
Why. Is everything. In this book. Just a mash up. Of other shit. That already exists out of this book. Why was it so important that these are real people? Come on, Ernest Cline, be a little less obvious that you’re pretty much just writing spec scripts rather than stories.
Zack explains his dad’s theory to the five council members and sends them all the evidence he has, including that day’s attack on the alien’s Disruptor. Neil de Grasse Tyson agrees that Zack’s ideas are worth looking into further, which is an actual fucking sentence I had to write about what happens in this book.
The chapter ends with the scientists telling Zack they need to discuss in private and call him back, and Zack’s friends making pop culture jokes that barely make sense and require an odd amount of set up.
Cruz caught a glimpse of my QComm screen, which was now divided into over half a dozen windows, each with a different person’s face, just like the opening of The Brady Bunch— so he decided to belt out an impromptu parody of the opening line of the show’s theme song: “This is the story, of an alien invasion, by some fuckheads from Europa who are—”