Armada is the long-anticipated (by me, anyway) follow up to Ernest Cline’s futuristic video-game drama, Ready Player One. The first thing I need to tell you is that I’m not a gamer. I’m not even much into sci-fi. But I absolutely loved Ready Player One. Sure, there was a lot about video games, but it wasn’t off-putting to those who don’t know all the references – and the story and characters had me fully invested. So I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this, Cline’s second novel, for what feels like several centuries.
Imagine my surprise when, shortly before the release of the book, the reviews started to trickle in… and they weren’t all that positive. At least, the ones from the bloggers I read regularly weren’t. I mean, they weren’t horrible, they just weren’t as enthusiastic as I expected.
By the time I got my hands on a copy and finally settled in to read it, you could say my expectations had been moderated downwards. I was still excited to read it, but I was cautiously excited.
And then I started reading. Pretty much from the first page I dug the main character. Zack Lightwood is a teenager who lives with his single mom, has some anger management issues, and spends most of his time playing video games, a passtime that makes him feel connected to his dead father. Zack doesn’t expect that playing video games will ever be anything more than a fun and challenging hobby – let alone that it will end up turning him into one of the world’s most talented drone pilots tasked with protecting earth and all the life it is home to.
Like Ready Player One, Armada contains many references to geek pop culture – in particular to alien-related movies and video games. Though I grew up in the ’80s, I managed to miss a lot of the movies that defined the decade (I didn’t have TV), so I had some fun catching up on what I’d missed by watching a couple of the movies mentioned in Armada. I particularly enjoyed The Last Starfighter and Iron Eagle (there were even some plot similarities between both of these films and Armada). Plus, as an added bonus, watching these films actually helped set the scene for me to appreciate the type of story Armada set out to be.
I had a really good time reading this book. Was it perfect? No. Did it require a lot of suspension of disbelief? Yes. But for a young adult, sci-fi book, particularly one that evokes the somewhat silly oeuvre of ’80s teen cinema, I thought it was entertaining, nostalgic and had some great characters and humour in it. The plot progressed at a good pace, and I didn’t get bored. It’ll be particularly entertaining if you were a geek in the ’80s! (Bonus: Zack’s playlist of ’80s tunes is listed in the back of the book so you can listen along as you read!)
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. – Goodreads
**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**
Author: Ernest Cline
Published By: Crown Publishing
Released: July 14, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Date Read: July 26-August 4, 2015