Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW | Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Wil Wheaton

WHY?: I loved Ready Player One

SYNOPSIS:  One day, while zoning out in class in modern-day Oregon, Zack Lightman spots an Unidentified Flying Object.  Problem is, he can identify it.  It was an enemy fighter plane from his favorite alien-fighting video game, Armada.  Zack thinks he's likely going crazy like his long dead father but just to make sure, he starts an investigation which eventually leads down a very giant rabbit hole and he soon learns that the planet is about to be invaded by aliens.


I had a lot of fun with this book and really enjoyed it.  The plot is not exactly original - in fact it is purposely derivative - but Cline keeps it interesting and throws all kinds of curve balls to shake things up. He obviously has great affection for the tropes he is playing with and subverting.  The nostalgia for and trivia of the 1980s is there too for folks, like me, who really enjoyed that aspect of Ready Player One.  It's flat-out a science fiction adventure story and if you enjoy that kind of thing you will likely dig this.

The book isn't all plot though. Cline takes his time setting things up and letting the reader really get to know Zack.  Some readers may get a little bored here but I really loved it and appreciated the time taken to give me an understanding of and therefore connect me with Zack.  He's an excellent protagonist - hot-headed, brave, nerdy.  He is not written as a caricature of a nerdy gamer - he's a fully real and complex human who is easy to root for and identify with.

However the long set-up does lead into one of my criticisms.  I wish this had been more than one book.  I think it could have easily been a duology or even a trilogy.  Several important things in the back half of the book seemed to happen way too quickly.  Important characters are introduced but there was no time to get to know, or care much about them.  Zack is really the only character that feels important and real and ultimately that takes some of the wind out of the story's sails.  I think with some added plot points, there was enough meat here to have played the story out over a longer arc. As it is the first and second halves of the book feel like different books with a different setting and cast of characters. 

One other comment, that is not really a criticism but is a mild caution for Ready Player One lovers. Even more than Ready Player One, Armada felt like a book for video game enthusiasts.  I am not a gamer at all and that didn't stop me from really enjoying the book but I imagine it would be really, really amazing for gamers. My teenage nephews are both into video games and I immediately ordered this book and sent it to them.  

Finally, I listened to this book narrated by Wil Wheaton.  Wheaton was the perfect reader and does such a great job. His energy and skill played a role in how much I liked the book.  One of my favorite narrations of the year, I think.  

FINAL VERDICT:  Despite the plot being a little too squished, this is a fun character-driven Science Fiction adventure which should work for everyone who likes this type of story and should be especially awesome for folks who love video games. 

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Other Opinions Are Available:  Nerdist | Cuddlebuggery | The Bibliosanctum


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