Book Review: Armada

Armada
By Ernest Cline

Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 349 pages
2015, Crown Publishers
ISBN: 9780804137256

Zack Lightman is a hardcore gamer and “nerd” who wishes his life was a bit more like the games he plays. He gets his wish when a flying saucer straight out of his favorite game flies past his high school window. Shortly after Zack is recruited by the EDA (Earth Defense Alliance) – a secret government organization that has known about the existence of alien life for generations. Zack begins to actually live the life he’s dreamed of, but he begins to think it feels a bit too much like a video game.

Fans of Ernest Cline will enjoy more of his pop culture and video game references, this time with a heavier influence of 80’s rock and space related games. I love this aspect of Ready Player One and was happy to see he delivered once more. I have a feeling all his books will have this same flair and that’s one of things I enjoy most about his writing.  He even made a Jack Burton reference!

This is a space fantasy, mixed with mmorpg elements and a little dash of Ender’s Game thrown in.  I’ve heard people complain that this book was too similar to Ready Player One, but I disagree somewhat. Yes, his main characters are smart-ass teens who excel at massive online role playing games, and yes, they’re both loaded with nerdy references, but Armada was heavy on the sci-fi and deals with actual space travel, whereas Ready Player One felt more fantasy based to me.

The other difference for me was that Ready Player One grabbed me from page one and I was completely immersed in the story. Sadly, Armada’s characters fell flat for me, the dialog was dull and overly expositional and despite the looming threat of Earth’s destruction via aliens, I didn’t really feel like anything was at stake.

That being said, I still enjoyed the book, just not as much as Ready Player One. The plot moved along nicely and the action scenes were great. Despite my lack of aircraft (and spacecraft) knowledge, I was able to picture most of what Cline was describing (though how accurately I pictured it is another story). I borrowed this book from the library and I’m glad I didn’t purchase the hardcover, but when it’s out in paperback I’ll be happy to add it to my library.

If you haven’t read any of Cline’s work, I’d recommend Ready Player One over Armada. If you like Cline’s writing style, this is still worth reading.

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