by Ernest Cline
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.
Source: I purchased a signed hardcover.
I was a huge fan of Ready Player One, so when I saw this book releasing the summer of 2015, I preordered a signed copy. Once it arrived, I started to get worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Reviews on goodreads (though many of the reviewers had yet to read the book) mentioned that it was basically an Ender’s Game rip off idea and my heart sank. I put off reading this until I was really in the mood for it and I had lowered expectations a bit. I’m glad I did wait to read it because I enjoyed it, but it would have been slightly disappointing had I been expecting anything nearly as good as Ready Player One.
Armada was a great story. It took the same type of video game nostalgia that I loved from Ready Player One, but instead of being arcade and 80s focused, Armada was more focused on space, aliens, and the video games, movies, and other pop culture things that dealt with alien apocalypses, battles, or wars. Zack stumbled upon his deceased dad’s journal, he started to connect the dots that his father was already attempting to connect. What if alien movies and video games were all just some big ruse to get the population to accept alien scenarios and train them for certain war? Could it be some giant cover up? Were we all just training for the government without realizing it?
What I liked about Armada was that it didn’t steal ideas from beloved sci fi, but it paid homage to them. It admitted that Ender’s Game and Star Wars and other famous sci fi works were a thing and used that knowledge to build a story. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the characters acknowledge those works and use them to help build on their theories.
The first portion of Armada was interesting, but kind of dull. I didn’t care so much about what was happening until the major stuff began and Zack sort of began his adventure. At that point, it was hard to put down and even pretty funny in various places. Zack was a likeable character and it was easy to root for him to save the world, even when he was being the same kind of crybaby as Luke Skywalker (and yes, those references are scattered throughout the book!) The references to sci fi stories, alien plots, comic books, and other geek culture was great and I think that’s why most of us would pick it up after Ready Player One. It was appreciated and it made me laugh.
Armada is not for the kind of adventure/apocalypse lovers who aren’t familiar with major geek culture. If you’re not the kind of person to geek out about Star Wars, you won’t appreciate the bits of references and humor sprinkled throughout and I think it would be awful for those readers. However, for the nerds, it’s fun in the same way that Ready Player One was with all of those jokes and moments that you totally know parallel the situation and you’re so glad someone pointed it out.
Armada is not the new Ready Player One or better or anything crazy. I wish it was, but it was a good book, fun to read, and full of the kind of adventure I was craving. I definitely recommend it, but don’t expect more than you should.