From the jacket:
Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and video games he’s spent his life consuming-and too often he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.
So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over to his psychosis.
Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite video game, a flight simulator called Armada-in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.
As impossible as it seems, what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revelations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth’s history, its future, even his own life-and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s fate in the balance.
But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking: Doesn’t something about this scenario feel a little bit like… well… fiction?
Sometimes you read a book that creates the perfect reading experience; it’s just right in every way, and at the end it leaves you with the mother of all book hangovers. The kind of experience that is so enjoyable, you can’t crack open another books for days, for lack of wanting to have any other story taking up space in your brain.
That was how I felt after I finished Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. The experience left me hungry for more, and I immediately went to see what else he had written. At the time, Armada was not out yet, but I hastily added it to my wish list, knowing I would order it as soon as it was available. I kept my eye on it leading up to the release date, and became more and more deflated as I saw the mediocre reviews coming in. Not wanting to sully my perfect experience thus far with Cline’s work, I put off reading Armada, and didn’t think about it again until I saw it as one of the choices for Blogging for Books. I figured it was time to give it a try, and went in hoping for the best.
I was so excited to receive this from Penguin Random House’s Blogging for Books program!
I want to say that reading Armada was a fun, exciting, compelling experience. I want to tell you that I raced through it, on the edge of my seat, enjoying every moment. I want to tell you that it was well thought out, skillfully written, and full of the sorts of exciting details and hilarious one-liners that made Ready Player One so fantastic.
Alas, I cannot say any of those things. While I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel like Cline started writing this book already late for a deadline. Everything felt rushed and contrived, the characters were underdeveloped, and the plot felt like a bad Ender’s Game/Ready Player One mash up. This book had so much potential, but at least for me, it fell pretty flat. It wasn’t so bad that I considered not finishing it, but it was a very mediocre reading experience.
As always, I’m going to get into more detail after the jump. Read at your discretion.
The majority of the romantic relationships in this story felt very shallow and forced. Characters are introduced to the reader at the same time as they are being introduced to each other and two pages later they are hooking up; a few pages after that they’re willing to die for one another. I tried to consider the fact that there was the imminent threat of impending war coming that could wipe out humanity (which could totally serve to heighten emotions), but even coming at it from that brain space didn’t help. The chemistry wasn’t there, thus their actions and declarations of love were completely unbelievable.
The battle scenes were the hardest part of the book to get through. I found myself re reading the same paragraph over and over again as my mind wandered. The combat happened largely between drones, so it was hard to conceptualize the consequences when one was destroyed. Each fight scene felt largely reminiscent of the one before it, and they were so prolific, I found myself skimming over several pages at a time towards the end.
It wasn’t all bad though.
Towards the beginning of the book, Zack spends time going through boxes full of his father’s old belongings. Among them is an old notebook full of timelines and conspiracy theories related to science-fiction related pop culture and video games. I’m a HUGE lover of all things conspiracy related, so I was pleasantly surprised by these parts.
I found the dialogue between Zack and his two best friends to be light hearted and funny. His relationship with Ray, especially considering the absence of his father, was touching, and the chemistry between them felt real to me.
Lex was a total badass. I love love love reading smart, sarcastic, no fucks to give ladies, who are bold and fearless to boot. I enjoyed some of the other characters too, but really can’t say much without giving away some major plot points.
Celebratory donuts and coffee for book mail!
Final Thoughts: Overall, I was completely underwhelmed by Armada, but found parts of it entertaining and fun to read. Cline has a very distinctive writing style that I find delightful. His idiosyncrasies made Armada familiar, but in a jarring way like when you run into an old friend but find them totally different than you remember them. There were so many parts of it that worked, and given more time I think this could have been another favorite. It needed to be more fleshed out, and less borrowed from other works of science fiction. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. Most importantly, I haven’t lost hope in Cline and will continue to eagerly await his future work. Armada is left loosely open at the end, allowing for a possible sequel. Who knows, maybe that’s what we’ll see next! You can read more about Ernest Cline here.
Favorite Characters: Lex, Ray
I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education.
The only thing crazier than hallucinating a fictional videogame spaceship would be to blame it on a frosted breakfast pastry.
I knew there was probably life elsewhere. But given the vast size and age of the universe, I also knew how astronomically unlikely it was we would ever make contact with it, much less within the narrow window of my own lifetime. We were all probably stuck here for the duration, on the third rock from our sun. Boldly going extinct.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.