*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way swayed my opinions.*
It feels like forever that I’ve been waiting for Ernest Cline’s second book after having loved Ready Player One so very much. I was immediately drawn in by the synopsis of the book which promised to pay homage to the best extraterrestrial pop culture of decades past because if there’s one thing Cline is known for, it’s his ability to saturate a story with references to our favorite fandoms. The plot may initially read like that of Ender’s Game and while the beginning does draw some similarities, it is different as the plot progresses. The novel focuses on video game aficiando Zack Lightman who is one of the many Americans obsessed with the online flight simulation game Armada. On a seemingly normal day in high school, he’s sitting in class when he notices on the alien ships from the Armada game hovering around outside the window. Initially he thinks he’s going crazy, but there ends up being more to the story.
Since everyone is going to be specifically waiting for me to compare Armada to Ready Player One, I’ll tell you right now thatReady Player One is a better story but Armada is still enjoyable. If you are partial to space movies and all things alien,Armada will deliver the type of story (and the allusions that go along with it) that will please you. The plot felt formulaic and there wasn’t enough character development for the story to make any kind of significant lasting impression but that does not detract from its pleasure factor. You just cannot go into it hoping for Ready Player One in space. The ending of Armadadoes leave the possibility for a sequel and if Cline does intend to write one, I would be eager to find out what happens next and I am confident that I would love the second installment more than the first.
I like that the main character Zack Lightman is your typical high school kid who becomes tasked with saving humanity. He’s your average teenager with a wealth of pop culture knowledge which he puts to good use. There are several plot twists that throw Zack for a loop, but overall, he is quite adaptable to change and he handles the curveballs life throws him in a very mature way. Especially considering that he has less than 24 hours to digest everything. My favorite character in Armada is Lex, the brilliant female gamer and programmer who can hack any system. She, along with several other females, (some ranked within the top 10 high scorers of Armada) represent the female gaming community in a realistic way and I was thrilled to see that Cline did not fail his female audience because tbh I was slightly worried in the beginning.
Final Thoughts: Armada by Ernest Cline is your typical alien invasion story that is jam packed with references to past space franchises. It follows Zack Lightman, a typical teen with an affinity for video games who is recruited to help protect the Earth from impending doom. If you’re looking for a classic alien invasion story, Armada will satisfy you but it does not stand out from others in its genre. There is potential for a sequel in which case, Armada would lay the perfect groundwork for an original story.
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. (via Goodreads)