Armada Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

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 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.

Wow, I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed reading it a whole lot more than I did Ready Player One.

For one, I felt like the plot of Armada was developed a whole lot better. I felt like the whole story made more sense and Ernest Cline didn’t make too many overwhelming science fiction references to the reader. I also could relate to Zack’s character on a more personal level. Like Zack, my father also hasn’t been a part of my life. While some people are fortunate and have both parents in their life, not everyone is quite so lucky and not having that figure around can impact a child’s life. For Zack, it caused him to question the world around him and made him obsessed with video games and the stuff his father left behind. But it also resulted in anger issues that could’ve developed into something more serious if it weren’t for what happened in Armada.

Besides being able to relate to Zack, I also enjoyed reading this book because I felt like the other characters were a little more developed. The reader can see this in the story with Zack’s interactions with the other recruits and the close knit relationship he has with his mother. I also appreciated that the small amount of romance in this novel wasn’t pushed. Whenever I read books with a main focus in one particular genre, I sometimes get fed up when romance is constantly forced into the story whenever it’s not really needed to make the plot move forward. While I do love reading romantic scenes, it’s not always needed. Especially in a novel like this with heavy emphasis on science fiction. So I appreciated that Cline didn’t force Zack and his love interest together and that she was more of a minor character who helped save Zack whenever he needed it.

I really enjoyed reading Armada because the story felt real. I felt like I could imagine everything that was happening to Zack in his world as he tries everything he can to save humanity. He remained focused on what he needed to do, even when things got really tough and lives were lost in the process. I also enjoyed it because I felt like I could relate to Zack’s struggle. Before the events on Armada unfold, Zack always dreamed of being whisked away on an adventure, of something happening that would take him away from his ordinary life. So he lived in his own fantasy world, spending his free time playing video games whenever he could. I often had this type of experience myself too where I wished something extraordinary would happen to me and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has. In many ways, his struggles in the world are something everyone faces, which makes him even more relatable to anyone picking up this book.

The one issue with Armada I have, however, is the ending. To me, it was very emotional and I was upset at the direction Cline decided to take the story. I knew we were going to get an explanation for why these alien beings were attacking Earth, but I found the reasoning for it to be filled with so many holes that it made me really mad. I didn’t like the way Cline decided to take it because it felt like he killed off characters that I didn’t need to be killed. I was pretty upset because he killed off one of my favorite characters in Armada and it made it difficult for me to be happy with how the story ended. I also just expected there to be a bigger explanation for why everything happened and was disappointed because I didn’t get one.

Despite this one problem though, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was just the right story for me to read and had characters I could easily relate to that I’ll definitely be rereading Armada in the years to come. I look forward to see what other works Ernest Cline will create in the years to come since I enjoyed the two novels he’s written so far.