Review: Armada by Ernest Cline


by Ernest Cline

Science Fiction | 355 Pages | Published by Crown in 2015

| Rating |

three point five

I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review

I admit it, I’ve never read Ready Player One. In fact I’d never so much as heard of Ernest Cline *gasp* before Armada hit the shelves. So, when I received a copy of this book for review, I really didn’t know what to expect. Oh it sounded good, nay, awesome! – Science fiction you say? And it has aliens? And rock music?! And it pretty much revolves around video games?!! Well if you hadn’t already sent me the book, take my money! Open. Read. Done! This book left me excited, it left me wanting more… but it also left me a teensy bit disappointed.

Armada follows the story of Zack Lightman, a teen from a small town with a penchant for referencing as many brilliant things as possible. But Zack is an addict and spends all his free time playing Armada, an alien combat based flight sim.

Night-time raids were going along swimmingly until an alien ship straight out of the game comes crashing down into the school grounds. Concerned for his mental health, Zack escapes the classroom and vows to take a break from gaming (which lasts all of about ten minutes).

But when an Earth Defence League ship lands in the school car park, Zack discovers there’s more to this universe than he ever imagined. He soon finds himself immersed in a world of conspiracy theories and government secrets, with a fleet of alien drones to boot. The fate of humanity is resting on your shoulders, gamers. What could possibly go wrong?

| The Good |

Armada is so much fun. It sucks you in and bombards you with geek reference overload. Cline doesn’t shy away from using them as metaphors, for dialogue, for plot twists… for just about anything really. And it works! If you are a fan of video games and sci fi books and movies, then it’s quite likely Armada will float your boat. If you were that kid at school, daydreaming, staring out of the window and waiting for Gandalf to knock his staff against the glass or for say…. a spaceship to land right in the school grounds, then look no further.

Zack is a great protaganist, full of teen angst but balanced out by his ready humour (and brilliant taste in everything… except Lucky Charms). His motivations are well developed and his narrative is snappy, carrying you along straight to the conclusion. Armada is also incredibly easy to relate to – the world is ours, the references are ours and if you like to daydream you may have even pictured this whole scenario. Armada really is pure entertainment, but…

| The (not really) Bad |

I did feel a little disappointed in places. There is nothing truly ‘bad’ about this book but there are parts which could have been tighter and which could have done with some development and fleshing out. The plot really succeeds when it gets to the action but I would imagine those who either tire of or don’t ‘get’ the references getting a bit bored during the former part of the book.

The cast of characters provide a great backdrop for Zack to interact with but, despite their little quirks, somehow fell a little flat. By the end of the book I honestly didn’t care about half of them. Cannon fodder. Though the writing style is snappy and to the point, I would have preferred a little more depth. Everyone is just sucked into the action with little to no resistance – cardboard people sucked into a vacuum – which made it fall a little short of what I would expect for a 4 star book. But, despite my misgivings and occasional nitpicking, I was still really enjoying it…

| The Ugly |

And then the ending happened. Hmmmmmm… goodbye half a heart shaped star. I really did enjoy most of this book but the ending was a let down and the plot develops in, what seemed to me, a highly unnecessary way. It all just seemed like a bit of a cliché, like something I would see a the end of an ‘ok’ sci fi movie and yes, it was a little bit cheesy. But we can’t have it all.

Having said all that, Armada is a very easy and absorbing read. It’s full of wit and humour, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and provides entertainment by the spadeful. If you’re looking for mind blowing science fiction, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something entertaining, something that will make you laugh and which is littered with science fiction goodies, then Armada could be the book for youIt certainly hasn’t put me off getting my hands on Ready Player One.

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