By: Ernest Cline
Zachary Lightman is a high school senior who doesn’t know where his life is going. With only a month left of his education, his mother is worried that he has no plans for his future. She is right to worry.
The only thing Zach knows he wants to do is to work full time at his after-school job manning the counter at the local retro game store. There he and his boss, Ray, spend all day playing their favorite videogames. For Zach, Armada is everything. Holding the record of sixth best Earth Defense Alliance pilot in the world, playing games seems to be the only thing he’s good at.
But when Zach looks outside the window of his math class and sees a real-life spaceship exactly like the ones in his game, he thinks he’s going crazy. However, that one glimpse will rocket Zach into an undercover military operation where a bunch of gamers must rally to save the world.
I gave this book the benefit of the doubt before I ever picked it up. Ready Player One was a huge success and one of my favorite books during my college years. I genuinely didn’t think Armada would be able to compete, and the lack of buzz this book generated seemed to drive that point home.
Unlike with its predecessor, Armada was written and shaped to fit the mold of a traditionally young adult book. You know how I feel about those. The lackluster writing, terrible humor, characters devoid of the ability to express real feelings, repetitive language, and angst were enough to make me want to get done with this story as fast as possible. I kept waiting for a moment when the book would redeem itself, but that moment never came. The ending was sadly the most cringeworthy part and there were quite a few parts to cringe at.
With the success of Ready Player One, I expected that Ernest Cline would have more of a handle on creating narratives that felt believable, possible, and credible. He had already written a story that felt immersive and exciting, but somehow, we got this as a second attempt to recreate that magic.
The bad science coupled with only one character who ever seemed to know what was going on was enough to drive me crazy. The “what if” situation Cline tried to make was laughably horrible. I felt like I kept getting pulled out of the story. Even at the climax of the book where all the action and “suspense” was, I had to close the book and take a mental break before trying to continue.
Additionally, unlike with Ready Player One, the constant barrage of pop-culture references, movie quotes, and video game tie-ins served no purpose. They were just there, they were distracting, and they were incredibly annoying.
This novel felt like it was written for a young teen nerd that does nothing with their time but play video games and wish that their hobby would allow them to do something meaningful. This is for that young person who wants to read about someone with no plan for the future save the world. Don’t think that’s too harsh either. The main character basically describes himself that way in the book.
I’m a gamer, and I like that gaming has become such a mainstream part of our culture to the point that authors want to incorporate games into books. I believe this book could have been really awesome. The premise was interesting and unique. If it could be rewritten in the voice of a more adult and serious narrator, the story could be greatly improved.
This novel goes to show that a great idea will always fall flat with the help of poor execution.
Overall rating: 2.5