Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada
by Ernest Cline

Published: July 14th, 2015 by Crown Publishing Genre: ya, science fiction, adventure Source/Format: blogging for books; hardcover; 382 pages Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.49
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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?
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education.

As I have done many times, not only over the internet but also across the sea that is my social circle, I could spend this entire review raving about how Ernest Cline is the freaking voice inside my mind. Granted. I’ve never actually heard his actual voice, so that has yet to be fully determined. However! I’m absolutely certain that if the thoughts in my mind were ever to be published by anyone other than myself, by golly, Ernest Cline has got the job. Ready Player One was my absolute favorite book that I read in 2014 (Station Eleven coming in at a close second), despite being incredibly late to the fan base. I’m actually a little glad that I waited so long because it made the wait for Armada just a bit less painful.

Now, I realize that science fiction and a million pop culture and 80s reference all wrapped up in the binding of a great book just isn’t for everybody. It can be tiresome, sometimes the references are too vague, google must be consulted and there are just seriously a ton of references on almost every page. But, for someone like me, someone who takes pride in being one of those people who know the optimal speed for time travel is 88 mph and has been that kid staring longingly out the window hoping that (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) something interesting would finally happen like in all those great movies and books I love; Armada is the book for you.

First and foremost, Armada isn’t Ready Player One, but in truth, they are very similar in tone and voice of the protagonist as we once again see the story from the inner monologue of a geeky, gamer boy. Armada, to me, really seems like a nod to Ender’s Game and The Last Starfighter, if not its own version of a reboot.

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of originality to the actual plot of the book. Citizens of the world, mostly teenagers and young adults it would seem, are trained for an alien invasion through video games. They are the last hope for mankind. For every reference I found myself giggling over and every line that made me do this strange shout-laugh loud enough to wake my sleeping husband (I was up till 3am finishing the book) there were moments that didn’t seem all that necessary to me or weren’t as action packed as I would have liked. Yet, even despite all of those recycled plot lines and faults, I still found it really entertaining. Entertaining enough to devour the book in one night with zero regrets.

The major gripe I have about this book is that Zach, our protagonist and quintessential Luke, is really the only character we get to know well. Even his closest friends and romantic interest really only show up to talk geeky to me for a minute or so before they disappear again. It would have been nicer to see this book be a little longer, perhaps then it wouldn’t feel so rushed and I would have been able to connect with the supporting characters a bit more.

This book may or may not be for you. But, I found it a lot of fun to read. It was quick, entertaining and honestly, I love a good pop culture reference or hundred. It was good enough to keep be satisfied until Cline finally gives us Ready Player Two (please please let that be the title).

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

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