Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

I think I found a new auto-buy author out of Ernest Cline.

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Armada by Ernest Cline ever since I found out it was coming out. Like many others, I absolutely loved Ready Player One which made me excited to see what else Cline could conjure up from his imagination.

9780804137270Ready Player One was originally published in 2011 and I believe I read it in 2012; Armada came out in July of last year (2015). I went into Armada with no expectation that it be anywhere like Ready Player One, which I think allowed me to completely get immersed into the story and really enjoy it.

I was half-expecting Armada to be a technological future dystopia. It isn’t, but I am far from disappointed about that fact. This novel is a thrilling adventure about Zack Lightman, a high school senior, whose world heavily revolves around the fictional space shooter game, Armada. Because he’s one of the top ten players, he’s recruited to help defend Earth against an alien invasion.

The Writing

Clearly I like Cline’s writing and it was no different in his sophomore novel. I think what I was most excited about is to see what new pop culture references he was going to weave into the story or even how he was going to weave it into the story.

And it was great! While I didn’t get all the references to the various movies, TV shows, etc. there were a good handful that I did get, which always resulted in me smiling and doing some embarrassing internal happy dance. The result, though, of him weaving these references into a more serious plot is comic relief, at least for me.

“Now I feel bad,” Diehl said. “Like we’re about to nuke Aquaman. Or the Little Mermaid.…”
“Pretend they’re Gungans,” Cruz suggested. “And that we get to nuke Jar Jar.”

The Characters

Zack Lightman seemed like any other high school teenager, just with a little anger issue, but ultimately he’s a smart kid who would do anything for his mother. At the start of this novel he’s in the same situation as many high school students are near graduation (and many who are beyond that point): he’s very unclear about what it is he wants to do after high school. Zack is a related character to me and his reactions to different situations make sense, making it realistic.

Zack’s mom seemed really cool, though she’s not in the novel often. Same goes with Zack’s two best best friends Cruz and Diehl. I really liked Lex, another recruit to fight aliens who Zack ends up making a strong connection with; she also seems kind of sassy, which I’m always a sucker for in female characters. All other characters didn’t seem like main characters considering we don’t see them that often. The focus seems to be on Zack and him learning to get through this pretty much on his own.

“If there were other civilizations out there, why would they ever want to make contact with humanity? If this was how we treated each other, how much kindness could we possibly show to some race of bug-eyed beings from beyond?” – Zack

The Plot

I read a few reviews where people were really disappointed with this book because it’s essentially the plot of The Last Starfighter or maybe even Ender’s Game. Lucky for me I’ve never seen The Last Starfighter and I don’t know how long ago I read Ender’s Game (though I think they’re are differences between Ender and Armada).

For a review of this book that Slate magazine did, Cline had said that while there are heavy similarities between other stories and his second novel, the big difference are all the pop culture references. It was refreshing and interesting to see Zack making all of these connections to better versions of technically his own story and trying to figure out the puzzle and where all the pieces fit.

“In reality, videogames did not come to life and fictional spaceships did not buzz your hometown. Implausible shit like that only happened in cheesy ’80s movies, like TRON or WarGames or The Last Starfighter.”

I have to say, there were a couple twists that were semi-surprising and one that made me really sad, which left me feeling bittersweet about the end.

What I Disliked

There isn’t really anything that I disliked, I took this book to be the piece of great sci-fi entertainment that it’s supposed to be. However, it would have been nice to see a little more of the other characters. But again the book read to me like an action sci-fi movie.

In any case, I highly enjoyed reading this book. It was a lot of fun and very thrilling and the pop culture references were on point.

So have you had a chance to read it? Is it on your TBR?


For more info on the book and the author, Ernest Cline, check out the links below:

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

I really liked the Slate magazine review of this book, which you can find here.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

  1. Great review! I loved Ready Player One, and have been meaning to pick up this one, so I’m glad to hear you liked it!

    P.S. How did I just figure out that I wasn’t following your blog?!

    Liked by 1 person

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