ARMADA is Cline’s second novel, the first being READY PLAYER ONE, which I read about a year ago and loved. His follow up is extracted from the same vein, pop culture; emphasizing on video games and SciFi movies. I had so much fun listening to RPO, I wanted another one. I was pining for a new Ernie Cline novel. I picked it up on day one, listening before it even completed downloading.
Zack Lightman is sitting in his high school class, when he looks out the window and sees a UFO. What makes it worse, it is the same spaceship from Armada, the game he and millions of others play. –Armada is an online flight simulator in which you work for the Earth Defense Alliance (EDA) controlling combat drones remotely while battling evil aliens hellbent on destroying humankind. Prior to that, the same company released a game called Terra Firma; in that game, you control remote mechs and defend the planet from the ground. Zack thinks he may be suffering from schizophrenia, until the next day when an EDA transport ship lands on his school lawn. A familiar face steps out and calls for Zack. Apparently, the EDA is real, and due to his top 10 ranking in Armada, he’s being recruited! Zack goes on to meet some new friends, fight alongside some old ones, and discover a part if his past he thought long buried.
This has received some criticism for being a rip off of THE LAST STARSHIP. I haven’t seen the movie, so those criticisms fell on deaf ears. I’m a gamer, I’m a sci-fi and fantasy geek, and I love comic books; I think it’s safe to say this book is aimed at people like me. The pop culture references, I feel, are a big part of what makes this book so much fun. They tug at little strings of nostalgia, or they remind you of a movie you love but haven’t seen in awhile. However, it is a double edged sword; the same one liner Zack spits out that makes you think of your favorite scene from Lord of the Rings, also takes you out of the story you’re reading, it can be distracting. The pace of the novel was really good, there wasn’t a huge chapter filled with an info dump (well, maybe there was and I missed it because I was enjoying the story). and the dialogue was a lot of fun. The plot was slightly predictable with respect to how the journey would unfold. It follows a very typical coming of age layout — Young man has power thrust upon him, he struggles with new responsibilities, he charms the girl, he endures loss and overcomes, and ultimately, he becomes the hero. — however, I can honestly say the ending surprised me, I did not see it coming. That coupled with some really great writing, leaves me wanting more. Ernie has major writing chops, that’s obvious. I was completely engrossed in both this and RPO, from beginning to end.
This is a fun, light read brought to life by Wil Wheaton. As usual, he delivered a great performance. He is easy to understand, most of his voices are distinguishable, there’s never any background noise, and he has a way with Mr. Cline’s dialogue that just meshes well. I haven’t heard a Wheaton book I considered poorly read; he is always good.
Overall I loved it, I recommend it, and I will be listening to it again. I suggest you do the same, sir or madam who is reading this review, because if you were not interested in these themes mentioned above, you probably would not have made it this far. Go, enjoy some interstellar dogfights and a shared love of geekery goodness!
There is another really good review of Armada at Audiobookreviewer.com