On the Cover: 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?
I was really excited going into Armada. I loved Ready Player One by Ernest Cline so much I read it twice, back to back. I love that Armada is still going with the whole video-game theme and was looking for more of that same love, crossing my fingers that it would be just as strong of a novel.
Cline totally exceeded my expectations in one place: the action scenes. Cline has an amazing gift of bringing video game sequences to life and creating a vivid experience. I was captivated by every fight scene, and it was like I could hear and feel the fight happening around me. I am absolutely in love with these fight scenes, with all of the guns blazing and heart-stopping flight maneuvers.
I just wish I could say that about the rest of the story.
Zack is a strong main character, and I did like him. He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life – he just likes playing video games – and I think that will resonate with a lot of readers. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters really fall flat for me. They are either totally one dimensional or simply feel opportunistic and exist for the sole purpose of forwarding the plot. The love story just feels needlessly inserted into the story, and to be honest I wish it hadn’t been there at all.
I also wasn’t sure about the premise of the story. Secret military forces, invading flying saucers, video-game players called forward for the greater good… to be honest, it felt like a really cheesy science fiction movie. I found myself grimacing at the ending and that is just never a good feeling.
Ernest Cline hit a home run with Ready Player One and thus had the monumental task of trying to live up to that fame. Armada certainly feels like Cline is trying to capture the same magic, but he sadly misses the mark. This story should be read for one reason only: the fight scenes. They are cinematic and breath-taking, and sit on a foundation which will woo some niche readers. I look forward to Cline’s next novel, and I hope to see a more solid foundation for his amazing action sequences.
Rating: 3 / 5
Action and Adventure: 5 / 5
World Building: 4 / 5
Characters: 2 / 5
Story Premise: 2 / 5