Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Armada

Armada by Ernest Cline
Published July 14th 2015 by Crown Publishing

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?
Armada is the most recent offering by Ernest Cline, of Ready Player One fame. I only recently listened to RPO on audio last year and I absolutely adored it. Naturally, I was eager to give Armada a go, especially with Wil Wheaton returning as the audiobook narrator.  His voice and tone perfectly suits the sci-fi themes and retro pop-culture that imbue Cline's stories. There are notable differences between Armada and Ready Player One though but the storytelling and world-building seem to be where Cline consistently shines.

Imagine being one of the best video game players in the world.  Imagine spending your days and nights rising through the ranks as a shooter pilot, taking down aliens who want to invade earth.  And then imagine finding out that a real alien invasion is imminent and that your skills make you the perfect candidate to fight off the real thing.  Mind. Blown. 

Armada is set in the present day and once again finds an unlikely hero in Zack Lightman. Zack has grown up on alien invasion video games and movies, both retro and modern.  He longs for a life of significance and heroism like those in his games, instead of the dull, dreary reality he's forced to occupy.  That is, until he spots a flying saucer. In seconds, his entire world is turned upside down and those hours he's 'wasted' playing video games might just save his life.  Once again, I feel like author Ernest Cline does a fantastic job blending reality with gaming.  Instead of adventure/quest gaming like in Ready Player One, we've got alien/shooter type gaming at the forefront.  Personally, I much prefer playing adventure/questing games so it took my a while to get into the groove of alien invasion/shooter lingo, but once I got the hang of it, I was immersed in the world, the story and the characters.

Cline creates a realistic scenario, relatable characters and a fast-paced, action packed story. The whole book reads like a film playing out in your mind.  As told through Wil Wheaton's voice-acting, I was 100% riveted right from the first page to the last.  As with Ready Player One, I had a blast geeking out to old movie, music and gaming references. I'm no more than a casual gamer, but I don't think you need to be hardcore into gaming to get behind this story, so long as you like sci-fi and action in your stories. I do think that the gaming lingo here was a bit more heavy handed here than in RPO, but that might be because RPO featured my kind of gaming,whereas this was a bit more unfamiliar to me.  I can't really say much about plot details without delving into spoiler territory, but I did find the climax to be a tiny bit...anti-climactic.  Don't get me wrong, it was cool and all...it just kind of fizzled more than exploded, which I guess might be a good thing, considering...

I still consider it a rarity when a story captures your attention so fully and you find yourself thinking about it all the time when you're not reading it.  Despite a few minor issues with the conclusion and the inevitable comparison that stems from having read Ready Player One, I had a lot of fun with Armada. Yes RPO is my favorite of the two, but RPO was one of my favorite reads last year, so that's hard to beat.  Fans of sci-fi, alien invasion stories and games should definitely give this one a try!

Previously...
Ready Player One

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

16 comments:

  1. I’m glad you liked this one. I really wanted to read it when it came out because I loved RPO, but it has kind of fallen off my radar. There are so many books and so little time!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. You're right^^ we can NEVER get to all the books we want to read. A fact that causes me lots of inner turmoil LOL! I hope you get to read it soon :)

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  2. I am not a gamer of any kind, but I too enjoyed this book. In addition to the ending, which I had a few issues with, I also wished the the romance had either been fleshed out more or dropped completely since it wasn't satisfactory as presented.

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    1. That's good to hear^^ Oh yes, I agree: I wish the romance had been fleshed out more - whereas in RPO, I felt like the romance there kind of took over the plot in the end.

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  3. After Ready Player One I was pretty psyched to read this, but I haven't yet. To be honest every time I read the blurb it reminds me of that movie The Last starfighter... which I loved as a kid! And of course all the references in RPO- loved those too.

    Glad this was good. I definitely love a story that keeps you thinking afterward! Maybe I'll go with the audio on this one.

    Great review!!

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    1. Ahhh I've never seen The Last Starfighter (I don't think) but now I want to watch it! LOVED all the geek culture in RPO - especially as an 80's kid myself :D

      Yeah even now I find myself still thinking about how intense it was to listen to...and I finished it like a month ago! That's always a good sign!

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  4. I'm generally not a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I think I might have to give this one a try. I've had a pretty good streak of four and five star reviews for Sci-Fi novels recently, so hopefully this one will turn out similarly. Great review!

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    1. I'd recommend trying his previous book Ready Player One before this one honestly Olivia. RPO was well loved by readers who don't usually gravitate towards sci-fi! This was great too but not quite up to RPO :) Thank you^^

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  5. I think I gave this book the same rating as you! I definitely didn't think it was as good as Ready Player One, but I had a lot of fun with it still :)

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. My sentiments exactly! RPO was EPIC. This was fun and entertaining but not up to RPO's standards :)

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  6. I can't believe I still haven't picked this up! I was very eager to see what you thought of it, especially since we both loved RPO. I'm more into quest type games than shooters, too, but I do love Cline's knack for keeping the 80's pop culture references rolling! I'm glad to hear that this was a very solid read for you, even if it didn't quite measure up to RPO. :D

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    1. Yup, I think the type of gaming here coloured my feelings towards this one but nonetheless, Cline shines through with the 80's pop culture references, living, breathing characters and riveting action! It was definitely solid^^ I didn't expect it to live up to RPO and that's fine, it was still worth the read :)

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  7. I still have yet to read an Ernest Cline book but I have heard great things, and the fact that you have enjoyed his stuff means that I probably would too! It's great to know that you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to understand/enjoy some of the references :)

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    1. If you do ever pick one of his books up, I recommend starting with Ready Played One. That one is more of an immersive dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy story and was generally better received that this one^^ I enjoyed this one a lot but it didn't quite measure up to RPO :)

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  8. I love video games, but I play more like Zelda and Smash Bros. lol so I'm not a serious enough gamer to know a lot of the lingo I'm sure. As long as it's easy to figure out, that part shouldn't be that big of a problem. I remember your love of RPO and this one does sound like a good one as well. Hey, it could happen that someone's video game magic will be needed by the government :D Great review!

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    1. Your gaming taste sounds a lot like mine. Ready Player One better fit in with our gaming style than this one, but I still really enjoyed this. I caught on to the lingo and style quickly and it was exciting and compelling throughout :D Thank you! xx

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