Tea & Book Chat: Armada by Ernest Cline

*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.

Armada

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.

Rating 4

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)

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Kristin

How I Spent Hurricane Sandy

Since Hurricane Sandy has struck, there has been little to no transportation available around New York, plus most establishments were out of power, and some still are.  Never in all of my years have I seen the school district close down for six consecutive days and counting.  I am so thankful that everyone in my family and all of my friends made it through the storm okay with only minor damage and power loss in some instances.  One thing Hurricane Sandy has forced me to do is spend a lot of time inside my house.  Work was closed for two days last week (we were nowhere near as lucky as the schools!), and I used that time to finish reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, reorganize my book and graphic novels shelves, reorganize and minimize my DVD collection, straighten up some of the cluttered areas in my room (all while watching The X-Files), and spend a lot of time watching classic movies with the rest of my family.  It feels like I’ve been on the go since last March so it was really nice to enjoy a relaxing week at home for a change.  Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy curling up in my bed with a good book and a hot cup of tea, or lounging on my downstairs couch for family movie nights.  It’s always lovely to reconnect at home and spend some time selfishly indulging in the things that make you happy.  But now that it has been a few days, I’m ready to run out to Manhattan for more adventures.  I have plenty of exciting things coming up this holiday season, which I’ll be sure to share with everyone :o)
(I almost never wear my glasses, and I definitely never post photos in them, but since so much of my time was spent at home it just seemed easier than putting in contacts everyday.)  Anyway,  before I left for Florida I took a Twitter poll to see what I should read.  I began reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on my flight there thanks to the overwhelmingly positive recommendations of some of my Twitter followers!  After the first page of the story, I was absolutely hooked.  Cline mixes my love of the 80’s with my love of classic video games to create a compelling story about an international video game challenge where players were competing to inherit the fortune and control over OASIS in real life after the creator passed away and left a video explaining the prize and a clue to begin the contest as a part of his will.  It took years before the first key was found (there are three keys and three gates that must be cleared in order to win the game) but once Parzival got the ball rolling, it was only a matter of days before other gunters (players who devoted their lives to the hunt for Halliday’s hidden easter eggs), began to crack the vague clue.  I think I enjoyed this book so much because it felt like I was piecing together a puzzle.  I spent just as much time reading as I did contemplating the possible places keys could be found or how to clear any of the gates.  Cline wrote Ready Player One in a way that made it difficult for me to ever put it down.  If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest ordering a copy on Amazon so you can begin the hunt as well.  If you do read it, or have read it already, please tweet me with your thoughts or contact me on tumblr as I would love to discuss it!  My brother is currently reading my copy and it’s so difficult for me to keep my mouth shut about what’s going to happen while he finishes.
The next activity I mentioned was cleaning, but since that is extremely uninteresting I’ll move along to the classic movie marathon my family has been having.  I’ve always been a fan of old movies.  I find the glamour and classiness of old Hollywood to be irresistible.  The first night of the storm we watched Hitchcock’s Vertigo staring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.  Stewart’s character Scottie is hired by his friend to tail his wife around town because he believes she has been possessed by a spirit.  As I’m sure you’d imagine, chaos ensues as Scottie gets closer and closer to his subject, and his affliction with vertigo plays a major role in the outcome of his assignment.  The next movie we watched was also done by Alfred Hitchcock, and is one of my personal favorites, Rear Window.  Jimmy Stewart also stars in Rear Window, but this time he is an adventurous photographer confined to his apartment after he breaks his leg.  He spends his time staring out his windows at his neighbors and gaining insight into their lives.  It’s all fun and games until he believes that he may have witnessed a crime.  With his the help of his companion, the lovely Grace Kelly, the duo collect evidence against their suspect and involve one of the local detectives.  The movie is quite exciting and the ending really moves you to the edge of your seat as you watch the story unfold.  The rest of my family hadn’t previously seen Rear Window so I was really happy that I was able to introduce them to it and share in their viewing experience.  We’re also planning on watching another one of my favorites, Casablanca, several Audrey Hepburn films, and a few more Hitchcock masterpieces in the coming weeks.

I’ve always been the kind of person who loves holidays.  It’s a great excuse to craft things, bake delicious pumpkin and gingerbread desserts, spend time with your loved ones, and simply enjoy the spirited atmosphere that surrounds them.  Christmas has always been my favorite, but Halloween is a close second.  Because of the storm we didn’t have a traditional Halloween this year but I still ate my candy and watched James Gunn flicks.  One of the most exciting things to happen this week (you know, besides that whole hurricane thing), is that Starbucks brought back their holiday cups!  That means that Christmas is right around the corner! I had my first gingerbread latte of the season this past Thursday and it was the perfect way to console myself for being at work while the rest of my friends and family were at home.

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