Sometimes you can enjoy a book sooo much and then you get to the ending only to be let down, which unfortunately was the case for me when I read Armada by Ernest Cline.
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?
While I enjoyed Cline’s debut novel, Ready Player One, I also felt that it tended to drag in areas. But lucky for us, Armada never suffers from the same problem. This story was fast-paced from beginning to end. I never found myself struggling with boredom or indifference, but always on the edge of my seat with excitement. I was so excited to turn each page to see what was going to happen next. I’m very happy to see that Cline has improved so much with pacing and I hope that he continues to, to ensure that this isn’t just a fluke. *prays intently to the book gods for it to be true*
I thought that Zack was a really fun character. He was snarky and nerdy, but came with some emotional issues from his father dying at such a young age. The opening chapter was the perfect setup for the reader to see just what kind of person he is and I loved how great of an introduction it was. I also enjoyed the various side characters that show up, however, the female love interest, Alexis Larkin (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT!) was a bit much for me. I loved reading their interactions, but I felt that she was almost too much of a perfect badass that I didn’t particularly click with. She was too much of a trope and lacked anything original. Yes, she’s only a minor character but I would have preferred to see her make some mistakes or have some personal issues at least, but alas, nothing. She’s just too bloody cool and perfect. Yawnnnnnnn…
Plot-wise, this book is nothing original but then again, it doesn’t pretend to be. Throughout the entire story, Cline is referencing the very books and movies that it was inspired by. However, I never let that bother me. I found this book to be more of a contemporary homage to some science fiction classics, such as Ender’s Game, Star Wars, and The Last Starfighter. I felt that Cline’s pop culture references this time around helped pay tribute rather than just feel like an attempt to show off his extensive knowledge, as was the case in RPO. They were also much more accessible this time around and were references that I think everyone will be able to recognize. As a nerd, I can always appreciate a good pop culture reference! 😉
However, for as much fun as I had with this book, there were a few issues that I just couldn’t get over. I’ll start with the minor things… The first one was a bit of an insta-love moment between Zack and Lexi. It was more of a puppy love thing and was actually a pretty funny first meeting, so it wasn’t too terrible. Just worthy of a some eye-rolling, haha! The second thing that wasn’t a really big issue but still kind of annoyed me, were the so-called “twists”. Yeah, just no. None of them were twists to me, as I felt they were all a bit too obvious. But none of these compare to the ultimate fail when it comes to books for me, and that is CRAPPY ENDINGS!!!! Yes, you read that right. Armada was a fun, action-packed ride right up until the end. That ending was too quick, too easy, and too predictable. It lacked the tension and excitement that I expect in a good finale. It was like ordering a dry aged ribeye steak and receiving a hamburger patty. Yep, that kind of disappointment.
Overall, Armada was an entertaining and quick read but fell short in some areas. It had all of the entertainment value of a 5 star review but lacked the finesse and details (not to mention the perfect ending) to deserve it. If you’re looking for a quick travel or beach read then this book is an excellent choice, but if you’re looking for the perfect book then you might want to pick something else off of you shelf.
Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars
Have you read Armada? What did you think of it? What did you think of it compared to Ready Player one?