Sunday, January 7, 2018

Armada - Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishers (Random House), 2015 (Hardcover)
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Science Fiction
Started: January 1, 2018
Finished: January 6, 2018

From the inside cover:

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 video games he's spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of 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 video game he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada - in which gamers just happen to be protecting 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 around the world - are going to be needed to save 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.

After reading Ready Player One to get myself ready for the movie in March, I thought I may as well dip into the author's second book to see if it was as enjoyable as the first....sadly to say the author did not strike lightning twice.

Zack Lightman's father died when he was a baby in a freak industrial accident, so it's only natural that he would want to learn more about the father he's said to resemble so much. He plays the same types of video games his father played (and is a top scorer worldwide), as well as reads and watches all the science fiction books and movies his father loved. While reading his father's journals, Zack comes across a weird conspiracy theory penned by his father as a teenager: that the government is using science-fiction movies and video games as tools to train civilians to fight in an alien invasion. Zack worries about his deceased father's delusions, until he sees a flying saucer outside the window one day while sitting in class. Zack believes that some severe mental health issues might be hereditary, until the Earth Defence Alliance (EDA) whisks him away to fight in an alien war that's been going on since the 1970s unbeknownst to ordinary citizens.

This novel had a good premise, and similar to Ready Player One it takes a familiar concept (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Ready Player One, and Ender's Game and The Last Starfighter in Armada) that's known to readers to hook them onto the story. Unlike in Ready Player One though, Armada doesn't really grow beyond that familiar concept to become its own story. As you read, you're getting the Ender's Game vibes and references and waiting for it to acknowledge it and move forward and it eventually does, but by that point you've lost interest in the characters and you're bored out of your mind.

Armada unfortunately isn't as good of a read as Ready Player One (and I still had my issues with that book as well), so best to skip this one.

Thoughts on the cover:
The cover has metallic accents on it that does make for an eye-pleasing image.

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