REVIEW: Armada by Ernest Cline

March 15, 2016

 

SYNOPSIS: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.And then he sees the flying saucer.Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

 

GENRE: Science Fiction, Young/New Adult

 

FAVORITE QUOTE: " 'You Know, sort of like Obi-Wan, watching over Luke while he was growing up on Tattoine.' 'You're a bold-faced liar like Obi-Wan, too!' I shot back. 'That's for sure.' Ray's smile vanished, and his eyes narrowed. 'And you're being a whiny little bitch, just like Luke!' " (anytime someone calls out whiny Luke from Star Wars I love it!)

 

RATING: 3/5 entertaining and geeky stars!

 

REVIEW: Oh Ernest Cline, I remember this feeling from reading Ready Player One, sort of nerdy but then realizing that I am not as geeky as I thought, because every now and again I need to stop reading and clarify an allusion or reference. So many gaming references and some '80s nostalgia, although definitely not as heavy volume as his first book. And thankfully, minimal D&D nods, because this is a glaring absence in my brain cache, I'm talking none, absolutely no Dungeons & Dragons in my time on this earth.

 

Let the music be heard though, because Armada was a bountiful mixtape! Every song that was mentioned was immediately being hummed by yours truly, or I'd need to sing the chorus immediately...that's just how I do.

 

Aliens, video games, and conspiracies, oh my! I love the way that Cline writes because it's clearly a labor of love. The enthusiasm jumps off the page. The characters are the everyman, or in the case the newly 18 year old everyman, with something special about them that would only be useful in a narrow set of circumstances...and isn't that how we all see ourselves?

 

Armada is a mix of Ender's Game, Pacific Rim, and another dozen literary and cinematic staples, that you wonder if in this particular case it's sort of like cheating. In fact, it's hard not to compare the book to these other sources in the moment that you're reading and just like the book blurb above says, "Doesn't something about this scenario seem a little...familiar?" It's not enough to make me dislike the story, but it would take me out of the moment.

 

The characters were fun and the action scenes were thrilling. There was a space of about 75 pages in the last half of the book that I thought lacked forward momentum and stagnated, when I thought that there was more that all the characters should be doing, that the plot was simplified. But, despite this, the ending was a action-packed and very entertaining.

 

We are left with the possibility of more from this story, not a cliffhanger, but definitely a wink towards a follow-up book if the author is so in-Clined (see what I did there? ... ok nerd moment over).

 

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