Armada by Ernest ClineArmada 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.
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?
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!
Ready Player One
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars