Armada by Ernest Cline

Posted On 6 July 2015

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Just finished reading Armada by Ernest Cline.  I confess that I’ve been waiting for this book for ages! (Or at least it feels that way – you know how it is when you’re really anticipating something so badly).  I really enjoyed Ready Player One, in fact it was a big surprise for me because it really didn’t hold any appeal and I resisted reading it in spite of all the love going round –  so I did wonder how Armada would stand up.  Well, this is without doubt a fun read that will appeal to many readers.  I’m going to be frank and say it didn’t give me quite the same buzz as the first book but even so I enjoyed the ride and found it very entertaining.

The story starts with Zack – a young man, on the brink of finishing his education and with his full life ahead of him – even if he is undecided about what he wants to do with it.  Zack is definitely a dreamer, however, when he finds himself watching a flying saucer darting back and forth through the sky outside his classroom window he definitely snaps awake.  Is he the only one to notice?  And, what??  Is this space ship actually straight out of one of one of the games he plays every night? Kind of freaky!  Either there’s a space ship whizzing through the earth’s atmosphere or Zack is losing the plot! It certainly makes for a compelling start to the story.

I’m going to give a very quick synopsis, and I don’t think this will be spoilery at all!  Basically the alien threat is real.  It’s been real for quite some years and all those conspiracy theories – well, they’re more fact than fiction.  The men in black (not really but you get the picture) are aware of the threat posed and have been preparing us for years for a possible alien invasion by use of film and other media and for years video gamers, playing on space invader type games, have actually been learning how to fight off such an invasion.  Right here is the means of not only training but recruiting top simulator style pilots and Zack is in the top 10.  All his dreams of becoming a hero overnight are about to be realised.

Of course, if it was that easy then this would be a pamphlet and not a novel.  There are a few counter conspiracy theories going around and basically the clock is ticking.  What is the real threat here – that is the big question.

What did I really enjoy about this.  It’s a fairly gripping narrative for the most part (I hold my hands up – a few of the more detailed game parts lost me a little).  I enjoyed the writing and the story and it basically had me at ‘hello’.  There are so many references to songs, movies and games that I frankly lost track and there’s a good deal of humour injected into the story through that very means.  I liked Zack (although there were a couple of occasions where I wanted to shake him just a tiny bit for being whiny) and I thought that Cline does an excellent job of taking just about every sci fi film ever and referencing it here.  And, frankly, I think it’s very cleverly done.  You could spend your time saying this is a rip off of film ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ – but it isn’t.  It’s supposed to be a big mismash of all these films because basically the authority’s in this book were already aware of aliens, and everything that has been created since their awareness was raised has been with that in mind – so it’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario – is this a take on the films, or are the films a take on the aliens.  it sort of gives a certain amount of carte blanche to the author really which I thought was pretty cool (although I’m not really explaining my thoughts very well in that respect).

What did I think pulled the story back a little – the timeframe.  In one respect it’s this action packed wham bam type of affair, so great in terms of fast pacing and, in a way, I think that the book has been set up almost to read like an early video game with plenty of action and everything over before you even realised it began – and in that respect, again, it’s quite clever.  But, the whole thing takes part in about two days and it feels like there is very little time for anything else.  I wanted more from the characters, a bit more depth and a bit more life going on.  Not boring stuff – I don’t care what Zack ate for breakfast (although, strangely enough, that particular detail was included!), but I would have appreciated a little bit more, particularly about the other characters who for the most part were a bit one dimensional.  ( It’s just so very quick paced that it’s more like reading a graphic novel – without the graphics.  For me, and this is probably one of only a very few times in my life that I’ve said this, but I think this could have been expanded without any detriment.  The time frame could have been lengthened slightly and the characters given more personality and feels.

Criticisms aside, this is without doubt a fun read and it’s a great potential set up for a further book.

So, fun, fast paced, action focused plot with massive appeal in terms of huge doses of pop culture references.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.