Crown, 2015 (2015)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ver since reading his
Ready Player One
, anything by Ernest Cline is not only on my
list, it's on my
must pounce on
list. So I pounced on
! It's an enthralling coming-of-age adventure that gives nods to
The Last Starfighter
, but follows its own drummer.
oung Zack Lightman is an unashamed nerd, a gamer geek. A high school student, he works part-time for Ray at the Starbase Ace gaming store where he plays his favorite videogame,
, at every opportunity. And he's very good at it. Having started as '
a human recruit in the Earth Defense Alliance
', Zack is now one of the elite players - his character, IronBeagle, is in sixth place.
ack's gaming world infringes on reality when he sees a flying saucer (that looks exactly like an
fighter ship) out of his classroom window - and he's daydreamed all his life about '
the unexpected arrival of beings from another world.
' Unfortunately, this lot doesn't seem to be friendly!
ack's father died at nineteen. After reading his old journals, playing his videogames and watching his old movies, Zack believes his dad was a delusional conspiracy nut who had '
lost the ability to differentiate between videogames and reality
'. Had the apple fallen '
next to the Crazy Tree
' or was Zack's father correct?
f course, you can see what's coming. Zack is asked to enlist in the real Earth Defense Alliance and save the world from the evil alien invaders. He falls hard for a young woman, Lex, a fellow soldier, and fights alongside fellow gamers, under a General who knows him very well. Zack doesn't daydream about adventure any more as he's right in the middle of it!
ut there's something not quite right about the entire setup - and Zack has more than one huge surprise before it's all over and his biggest question is answered - why does a real alien invasion play out just like a videogame?
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