Book Review: Armada (YA)

Armada by Ernest Cline

Goodreads Summary:
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.

My Review:
I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I enjoyed Ready Player One, so I had to check out Cline’s next book. I liked this book, although not as much as his first book. I listened to the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton. He did such a great job portraying the 18-year old main character. His voice even cracked in the appropriate places.

I read a few bad reviews before reading this book, so I was a little nervous. Those bloggers criticized the unoriginal story line, but I found that to be the point of the book. Zack has been playing video games and watching sci fi movies his whole life, and now aliens from his video game are invading Earth. I thought Cline did a great job of outlining what that would be like. The story is funny and poignant,

But, for me, the book was about the character of Zack. Cline does the teenage boy so well! Zack is struggling with the absence of his father, who died when he was a baby. He worries that his dad was just some crazy guy who wrote down his conspiracy theories in his notebooks. It’s a quest to understand his father. And then Zack finds out that his dad was actually right. Good feels.

As in Ready Player One, this book is full of references – nerdy and non-nerdy, mostly 80s and 90s reference since Zack’s dad was born in 1980 (the same year I was born). I enjoyed that a lot. I also found it amusing that Cline chose to set the book in 2018, so there could be a female president.

I had a hard time following the battles in the audiobook, but that may have just been me. And I felt like the pacing was off a little bit. It jumps right in to the story at the beginning, which I liked a lot. But then it slowed down in the middle – too slow. And the ending felt rushed, although oddly, it seemed to set up for a sequel.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. I don’t think I’ll read it again because it’s not really my genre, but I did get emotionally invested in the characters, so I’ll read the sequel if there is one.

My Rating: 3 Stars
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