Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline


Zack Lightman has problems. He's got a reputation at school for being violent, and with graduation just a few months away, he has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Except play video games. He's good at them. Really good. He's ranked sixth in the world in the space shooter game Armada. He works at a secondhand video game shop where gets to refine his skills, but his mom keeps reminding him that isn't a lifetime career option. Oh, and another problem? He saw one of the ships from Armada flying outside his school this morning. A real one. No one else saw it.

Is Zack's concept of reality and video game blurring, like his father's did? Or is there something else going on, the conspiracy his father was sure was true before he died? Are aliens really coming for Earth, like in Armada?

Could it be possible that Armada and other video games like it have been training Earth's population to fight in an oncoming war?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.

Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer. 


Armada is set in 2018- there's one mention of that year, and other than that, it's not known. That reference is so late in the book even that I easily thought it was set now, in 2015. It really doesn't make that much of a difference, really. Dates don't play a huge role in the book, especially because it takes place over the span of two days. Things go quick, so the specific day and year don't matter much. I liked that, actually, though honestly, I could have forgotten how little time was passing if not for the ticking clock Cline inserted into the narrative and chapter headings.


You can find my thoughts on Cline's writing style in my review of READY PLAYER ONE here.

My Thoughts

It's kind of hard to not let my opinion of READY PLAYER ONE color my thoughts on Armada, but here we go.

Armada is fast but well-paced, with things moving along at a steady clip from the start. There's a short ramping up at the beginning, but once the action hits, it hits hard and doesn't stop. I do wish there had been a little more depth on some characters, a little more exploring done. But balance that against what Cline put out-- a short, easy-to-read page-turner-- and I suppose that's a personal choice by the author. He didn't need to go in depth with characterization too much in order to make the plot make sense. That said, holy cow is this a plot-driven book! From the moment Zack sees the first ship, we know something deep is going on, and the questions Zack asks himself even before things get serious set the theme very well.

Gamer geeks, this is a book for you. Zack is an easy stand-in for just about anyone who plays videos games, and especially games like Space Invaders, Star Fox, and other spaceship shooters. Fans of science fiction and even fantasy, there's stuff here for you, too. True to his nature shown in READY PLAYER ONE, Cline displays a real understanding of geekiness, dropping references all over the place, from Ender's Game to Star Wars to The Kingkiller Chronicles. This book plays out as a lot of people's fantasies, I think. It certainly struck a chord with me, being a book nerd. It's a very close-striking form of escapism, and one I think Cline did pretty well.

Okay, here's the zinger: I think READY PLAYER ONE was better.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! Armada is a quick read that you won't want to put down. It's fun, it's engaging, it tweaks the desires of gamer nerds and none-gamers alike, and it's clearly written with plenty of fund little moments. I give Armada an enlisted 5 of 5 stars.

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