Armada: Chapter 24
Zack and company go to Starbase Ace, the video game store he used to work at with the secret EDA agent Ray, to equip themselves with high-end video game equipment to rejoin the fight. Or whatever it is they’re about to do. The book spends this entire chapter not telling us anything about their plan that’s presumably going to be the rest of the book. I guess this is fine, since the characters spend all their time talking about how there’s going to be a plot twist at the end of the book anyway, so Armada needs a little bit of mystery.
I remembered something Ray had told me during our shuttle ride to Crystal Palace. That Glaive Fighter I’d seen outside my classroom window— he’d said it was a scout ship conducting surveillance on the EDA’s hard-line intranet [which had an] access node hidden here in the store.
But if the Europans knew about the EDA’s backup intranet, why hadn’t they bothered to destroy or disable it before they invaded?
Because their actions have never made any sort of tactical sense, I thought. Why start now?
Oh my god, Armada, are we still doing this? There are three chapters left of the book. The reader does not need more convincing – this has been the whole book.
Zack needs to call Ray to figure out where the
hard-line EDA intranet access node plot device is hidden. There’s a quietly hilarious moment where Zack’s long-absent dad totally knows he has the hots for Lex.
“I’ve got Ray’s number.”
“Be careful what you say,” [my dad] warned. “Vance could be monitoring your QComm.”
“Not anymore,” I told him. “After Vance broke in on my conference call with the Armistice Council, Lex helped me turn on my QComm’s hidden security mode— the same feature that Vance uses to prevent his own QComm from being monitored.”
“Captain Larkin appears to be something of a genius, doesn’t she?”
I caught him studying my face for a reaction, and blushed involuntarily.
I’m being totally serious, by the way! This is the one time in I don’t know how many chapters that put a genuine smile on my face. There’s probably a point to be made here about how these smaller interpersonal moments do a better job of showing the connections between people than everyone shouting the same pop culture references all the time. Think about how sad this is. Can you remember literally anything that Zack’s long-absent father has said to him before this point? “Probably a sci fi movie reference” doesn’t count.
Zack brings Ray up to speed and tells him (but not the reader) what he needs Ray to do for his dad’s secret plan. Naturally, as a man who worked for the EDA and withheld secret information about Zack’s dad actually being alive for years while training him to one day be a top EDA pilot, Ray is immediately on Zack’s side.
Thankfully, Ray took even less convincing than Lex or my other friends. Once I finished telling him everything […] he paused for a few moments, then nodded.
No crisis of identity that his entire life has been in pursuit of a lie or anything! That was easy!
Once again, the book decides to not tell us anything about Zack’s dad’s secret plan to do something or another. But it’s pretty obvious that Zack’s dad is going to sacrifice himself. You know, again.
I wasn’t a fan of several aspects of his plan, but there was no time to argue, or to come up with another solution. […]
“What if you can’t delay the Icebreaker long enough for me to get there?” I asked, once we were far enough outside that my friends wouldn’t hear his answer.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take care of it. Okay?”
“I love you, Son,” he said. “Thank you for helping me do this. Thank you for believing in me. You’ll never know how much – how much that means.”
What’s fun is that this perfectly doubles as Ernest Cline admitting that the reader will never understand what his underdeveloped characters mean either.
Speaking of underdeveloped, hopefully you never wanted to actually hear Zack’s mom and dad talk about their reunion after almost two decades of her thinking he was dead. It’s all off-screen!
They spoke to each other briefly, but I stayed out of earshot. I don’t know what they said to each other. But my mother nodded before she kissed him goodbye, and he smiled at her.
Does Zack not know what they said to each other, or does Ernest Cline not know how what they said to each other? Did he sit down at the keyboard, realize he couldn’t possibly put a punch of pop culture references in that conversation, and just write “they spoke to each other” instead?
Just in case it wasn’t obvious enough that this is mostly a calm-before-the-storm chapter, it even ends with a character observing how clear the skies are… for now.
[He] climbed inside my damaged Interceptor, and my mother and I watched as he flew off, bound for the Raven Rock command center. After his ship had vanished over the horizon in a blur, we continued to stare up at the sky for a few more fearful moments, dreading what we knew would soon descend from it.
We’re wrapping this book up next week! What do you think is gonna happen? DO YOU THINK THE ALIENS ARE ACTUALLY EVIL? HOW SUBTLE HAS THE BOOK BEEN?