Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

armada

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes

“I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer”.

“Extraterrestial visitors had permeated pop culture for so long that they were now embedded in humanity’s collective unconscious, preparing us to deal with the real thing, now that it was actually happening”.

“My heart was rocked by waves of unbridled joy. It occurred to me that up until this moment I’d only ever experienced the bridled kind. Having the reins slipped off my heart after a lifetime of wearing them was a bit overwhelming – in the best possible way”.

 

Ernest Cline’s sophomore novel is a story of Zack Lightman (his name is more superhero-y than Peter Parker), a teenage video game enthusiast who comes from a family of gaming enthusiasts, is surrounded by gaming enthusiasts, and obsessed with the idea of life being more like science fiction. In Zack’s mind, his dull life needs to turn around by virtue of a fantastic, straight-outta-his-favourite-video-game-called-Armada, event.

And one day, Zack’s wishes come true. He spots a UFO during a school day that is an exact replica of a battleship from Armada. The idea of the game is that the player has to protect the Earth from alien invaders. Zack is one of the best players there is – in fact, his handle IronBeagle is in the top ten. Number one is the mysterious RedJive, whom nobody has ever managed to beat. But everyone knows Armada is pure fiction, right? And Zack’s late father’s journals that tell a crazy tale of videogames being some sort of a battle camp that prepare you for a real war are just that – crazy. Right?

Wrong.

Zack’s excellent video gaming skills are, after all, going to be valuable in the real world. Turns out his father wasn’t that far off, and now the world needs Zack and everyone else in the top ten to defend the Earth from extraterrestial intelligence, as seen in Armada. But can Zack save the humanity from an interplanetary war? And even if a gang of plucky gamer geeks can somehow manage to “play their way” out of it, how do they know that Armada isn’t more dangerous than anyone realises?

 

I loved Ready Player One. Ernest Cline’s debut novel was one of the scariest, most interesting and most “fanboyish” books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. So needless to say, I had quite high expectations for “Armada” and have been waiting for it to come out. And while it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece like RPO, it didn’t let me down. In some ways, the reader can sense the elements RPO is riddled with – references to numerous sci-fi and fantasy things (I knew a lot more about stuff referenced in “Armada” than in “RPO” – I’m a 90s kid), young lad with a superhero name dreaming to save the world, a badass female love interest, and villain-y authority figures. In other words, “Armada” is quite tropey. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad sci-fi – just that it contains quite a few tropes from many other well-known science fiction works.

The writing in “Armada” was slightly less atmospheric than in Ready Player One, but then again, “Armada’s” overall plot is not the same as in “RPO”, despite all the similarities between the two books I just listed. In his debut novel, Cline has built an amazing world inspired by video games and 80s pop-culture, whereas in “Armada”, these elements serve more as MacGuffins, backdrops and props to move the story along, and thereby, less descriptive writing was required. The action sequences were quite decent, as was the witty banter and emotional relationships between the characters.

Essentially, “Armada” is a love letter to everything fictional and “geek things”. I have in mind a close friend of mine who would love it and would probably smile at all the references, especially since some of his favourite people make a cameo at one point. However, I am more of a fantasy geek/nerd than a sci-fi fan, even though I love me some aliens, so I didn’t fangirl as much as some people probably have upon seeing the references. I’m not much of a gamer, I didn’t like “Ender’s Game”, I didn’t like “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, and I’ve never seen “Star Wars” (yes I am that person), so I am probably the wrong audience for “Armada”.

It sounds as though I’m basing this review on how different/similar “Armada” is to “RPO”. Unfortunately, in this case it was inevitable, and given how much I loved “RPO”, all I can say is that I’m hoping to read more of Cline in the future, but I don’t know how well it’ll measure against the gem that is “Ready Player One” that’s arguably already becoming a cult classic. My rating of “Armada” is 6.5/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Armada” if you liked:

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

“Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke

 

Have you read any of Ernest Cline’s books? Which one did you like better? Do let me know in the comments! 🙂

Advertisements

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Image

My favourite hellogiggles.com writer Rachael Berkey (bookoisseur.tumblr.com) has described this book as the scariest book she’s ever read, so naturally I had to check it out.

The book takes place in the post-apocalyptic 2050s – a time when people spend most of their lives online because the real world is just too close to dystopia. People’s only solace is the pop culture of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s captured in OASIS – an online alternative reality created by a billionaire James Halliday who dies in the prologue. Our protagonist, Wade Watts, is an average American geeky teenager with a superhero name who, like everybody else on the planet, has discovered the joys of OASIS and regularly uses it to escape reality. Almost sounds like paradise for us geeks and nerds, right? That’s the scary part – the book is way too relatable. Although, on the first glance, the idea of OASIS sounds pretty cool (and it is, for the most part), and it is practically a feast for any geek, nerd or a pop culture junkie, or anyone from the early years of Generation Y, the reasons why it had to have been set up hit a bit too close to home – the failed economy, the exhausted natural energy sources, and things like that. Also, the protagonist does literally everything in order to avoid the real world. How many times we ourselves have used social media and games a little too much in order to escape the real world? This book talks about taking escapism to a whole new level.

The driving force behind the plot is the death of the creator of OASIS and the hunt for an Easter Egg of the system, for which a massive sum of money is given as a prize. Spoiler alert – Wade is the one who wins.

This has got to be the best non-YA science fiction novel I have read in years! Of course, I may be biased because I am a massive nerd and the book is full of references to my favourite nerdy things. While these references and the sciencey stuff are the driving force behind the book, it also has hugely relatable diverse characters and a fascinating plot that keeps you glued to the book for hours. I have a feeling it would largely appeal to any Dungeons and Dragons player, any lover of sci-fi shows such as “Firefly” and “Doctor Who”, and, in all fairness, anyone who loves nerdy and geeky things.

My rating is 9/10 – only because I got confused with some gaming terms at one point!

Favourite character:

Art3mis – not only is she named after my favourite mythological character, but she is also, quite simply, awesome – smart, sassy, nerdy, Canadian and relatable. She kinda reminds me of Comic Book Girl 19 – check her out if you love comic books!

Most relatable character:

Wade – the beauty of this character is that he is a completely average person. Well, as average as you can be in the RPO universe. Except he is a total geek and a fanboy (think Rick Castle). I can honestly say that he is every single geek’s spirit animal.

Character who gets the most development:

James Halliday – he may be dead by the start of the book, but his character development is central to the story

Favourite relationship; 

Parzival/Art3mis – and Wade/Samantha by extension

Favourite quote:

I have to say, I am having a hard time picking one – most of this book is quotable! Here is one of my favourites:

 “You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you. That’s easy. The same thing is going to happen to you that has happened to every other human being who has ever lived. You’re going to die. We all die. That’s just how it is.”

Dreamcast: 

In all fairness, this would work best as an animated film or a movie with A LOT of CGI.

Wade – Logan Lerman

Art3mis – Jenna-Louise Coleman/Ellen Page

Aech – Carmen Carrera

Nolan Sorrento – Joseph Gordon Levitt

Recommendations:

You might like “Ready Player One” if you liked:

– Anything from the 1980s obviously:

– War of the Worlds, by Herbert Wells:

– Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

(Source of the photo: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12600138-ready-player-one