Review│Armada

armadaAuthor: Ernest Cline // First published:  July 2015 // Genre: Science Fiction, YA
This edition: 368 pages, published in July 2015 by Century // Get it @TheBookDepository

Read in September 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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.

My thoughts

“I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.”

If that first sentence doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will. You know… apart from the fact that the guy wrote Ready Player One, and RPO is awesome!

But speaking of… It is my understanding that a lot of people who read Armada and loved RPO were very disappointed because they somehow where expecting some sort of RPO sequel, or something very similar. Sure, both books rely on pop culture references and on gaming, but the respective plots of the books don’t resemble each other. It is not because books are written by the same author that you should expect them to be all the same.

I also remember reading a lot of things concerning the premise of this book, how it was a rip-off of things like Ender’s Game and such. I can see where those people came from, I sort of thought the same thing when I read the synopsis for the first time, but now that I have read the book, my views have changed. Armada is very aware of the fact that it borrows from the tropes of science fiction, that the “video game is actually a training tool for a real alien invasion” is not that ground breaking, and that it has been done before, in books or films. But that is the point. For the last 50 years or so, we have been bathed with science fiction stories about aliens, space travel, etc., and one of the characters in the book makes a pretty thorough list of the films and tv shows that have flooded the airways about these types of subjects. So the references are intentional and the story feeds from them. It’s part of the story line, but it is not plagiarism.

Now for the story in itself… I was engaged, but not the biggest fan of some elements. I really liked the humour and the pop culture references, I liked the characters, but there were some things in the execution of the story that I didn’t enjoy so much. {BEWARE OF SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT}

Ok, so first off, the dad thing. I think everyone who has read the book saw that coming 100 miles away. Not so subtle, and very expected. Then, when they finally get to the base, they have a couple hours left before they have to fight, so… I don’t know, don’t you want to practise a little bit on the simulators that you are going to use? Don’t you want to make sure you’re ready to fight? To me it felt like they spent ages doing nothing, talking to say nothing… Several times someone will tell you to move your ass because the invasion is imminent, but then for 30 more pages or so each time, they just wander around the base, getting stoned, or just getting some alone time in a pod or something. Didn’t you just say that the fate of human kind depended on you and you had to get ready to defend it? This didn’t make sense to me. Either own the fact that you are going to use the remaining time you have to talk things through and reflect on whatever you want, OR you only have a few hours to get ready for battle and you should get things moving. Don’t mix the two, because it’s confusing, inconsistent, and doesn’t make much sense.

The fact that Zack’s dad is somehow the only one to notice something wrong with the actions of the aliens is also a bit messy. They talk about it for a long time in the book, but I didn’t understand what they were saying until the very end. There is something wrong, and they say so, some even agree, but what is it? Tell me! Don’t wait until the very last moment to tell me, I want to decide for myself if I agree or not before I can go along with the actions of the characters.

I didn’t care much for the ending and the “we wanted to make sure humanity was worth saving” thing. “We” being some sort of almighty being that single-handedly makes the decisions whether a “race” (?) is worthy or not. That thing just killed millions of people, but just because of the actions of one man who saw the one thing that everybody else missed, then it just goes into “repair mode” and helps rebuilding what it destroyed; except for the lives it took, because you can’t really come back from the dead. … And everyone is “cool” with that? I would be pissed!

My rating:

This book was neither a disappointment nor a revelation for me. It was okay. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. And for that reason, I’m giving Armada 3.25/5 stars. There maybe wasn’t enough action for my taste (at least I was expecting more), and I had some problems with aspects of the plot. But I still had fun reading it.

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