Note: I received this copy of Armada by Ernest Cline from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Adult Science-Fiction
After reading Ready Player One by the same author, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Armada by Ernest Cline. His books seem to cater to my own interests, video games and 80’s popular culture. While I do not understand every reference that Cline throws down, I get enough of them to chuckle every few pages or so.
If you have read Ready Player One and are thinking about reading Armada, please take my advice: you must look at these two novels as completely separate entities. If you need to, reread that sentence a few times. Armada is not a continuation of Ready Player One. While it is filled with 80’s pop culture references and video games galore, it is a completely different book.
Sure, it has some other similar elements. We have the hero of our story, a lover of video games who idolizes a person who grew up in the 1980’s, causing him to become obsessed with the music, games, and movies of this era.
It seems like I’ve just told you that the books are pretty much the same. Here’s the key difference. In Ready Player One, our hero chooses to go into the video game to solve puzzles to gain access to fame and fortune. In Armada, the video game comes to him and he has no choice but to help save the world.
See, they’re different. Kinda.
It’s almost a reverse of Ready Player One. Cline already wrote about a kid going into a video game and being awesome. In Armada, he wrote about a video game coming to life and a kid being awesome. I’m still giving the premise a four out of five because it is rather intriguing. Who doesn’t love the idea of a regular, every day kid saving the world? And he has to use his video gaming skills, which mothers everywhere say we spend too much time playing? Sign me up!
I’m docking a point because the premise isn’t completely original. Heck, the book itself talks about how it’s been done before in movies like WarGames, which Ready Player One heavily referenced. Armada’s main character even shares the same surname as the hero in WarGames, Lightman. Its premise is familiar, but not overdone in my opinion.
Plot Development: 4/5
The book follows a pretty fast pace, which made it quite enjoyable to read. The entire book spans over the course of one day and Cline was able to remind the reader every so often of this timeline. Some of the plot points were a tad predictable and cheesy, but once again, the book kind of pointed that out to the reader as well. Cline, you’re so meta.
Because the majority of the plot happens all on one day, it’s not surprising that we don’t get to know the characters terribly well. Zack, the main character, is only just meeting pretty much everyone in the book. We cannot expect to know characters on a deeper level that Zack, can we? The characters that he actually knows well play minor roles in the book.
My only issue with the characters was their unbelievable knowledge of all things 1980’s. Zack had a strong connection to the 80’s and a reason to memorize its culture. A few other characters we meet lived through the culture of the 80’s. Why did the young folks constantly make and understand the references? In Ready Player One, there was a huge reason that the entire human population studied the decade. In Armada, only Zack and the older guys have an excuse.
Writing Style: 4/5
Cline is becoming known for his showing off his knowledge of 80’s music, movies, and video games. I think that he saw such success with is debut novel and was praised for his references, so he felt that he needed to do it all again. With this one, some of them seemed very forced. The references would actually detract from an important moment in our characters’ stories. They just didn’t flow. The dialogue was a bit too cheesy for my liking, but it was tolerable.
The only thing that really affects the readability of this novel is the 80’s references. If you don’t understand any of them, then this one would be a toughie.
Total Score: 20/25, avg. 4/5
While Cline’s second novel was every bit as addicting to me as his first, Armada wasn’t my favorite. I’ll still recommend it to all of my 80’s loving, video game nerd friends, though.
My favorite part was that it included a track listing of the mixtape that the main character listens to, “Raid the Arcade.” Looks like it’s time to build a Spotify playlist!
Have any of you gotten the chance to pick up Armada yet? What did you think? Let’s talk about it.
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