Review: Armada by Ernest Cline


Armada by Ernest Cline

Published: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Subtitle: Good

"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."

(I cut a lot out of Goodreads' summary, you know how I feel when there's too much summary. If you want the rest, feel free to click the cover. It'll take you to Goodreads.)

I don't know where to start! (Literally, I've typed 5 sentences and erased them. It could be the exhaustion creeping in -- because it's late right now in case you were wondering -- but it's probably the book. You never know). I liked this book; I did. But I wanted to love it. I wanted to feel the same sense of obsession that I felt when I first picked up Ready Player One. 

Unfortunately, I never got there. Armada seemed like a secondhand shop. RPO was the Rolls Royce, and Armada the Bus. Maybe if I had read this one first, it might have stood a chance. But I didn't, and it doesn't hold a candle to the RPO experience.

Zack, as a character, has some issues. Specifically, anger issues. I don't really feel like these are ever addressed or really appropriately handled in the novel. I mean, yes, there was a pretty dramatic turn of events in this plot line, and his personal issues were pretty minor compared to what was happening, but if EC is going to make them that important at the beginning, then these issues either need to play a significant role or they need to be resolved. Neither of these things happened. Zack definitely had some character growth, don't get me wrong, and I did enjoy his character, but I was bothered by EC's dropping the ball in this area.

The plot was also a little, I'm not sure how to phrase this... hollow, maybe? I'll go with hollow for lack of a better term. Ready Player One had such a dense and rich backstory that EC could and frequently did pull from and I could really sense the lack of that in this novel. Zack, from the get go, had no idea what was going on, and frequently lamented this fact. You were figuring things out as he was figuring things out, and it made it less rich (attempt waxing poetic done now, kthx).

I do really enjoy all the pop culture references in EC's writing style. I always take a moment and give myself a little pat on the back when I understand one in the wild. Yep. True Story.

Overall, I was looking for an opportunity to relive Ready Player One, and that's where I made my first mistake. If I had just tried to experience Armada on its own or even read it first, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As it was, I tried to make comparisons, and it, of course, came up short (no one can compare, sorry Charlie). Nonetheless, I did still enjoy Armada (woo, point to EC!) despite all this. So if you pick it up, make sure you erase RPO from your mind and give this one the benefit of the doubt.

3 out of 5 stars.