Armada – Ernest Cline

armadaOn 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?

Published: 2015


 

The Review:

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.

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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

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Corsets & Clockwork – Trisha Telep (Editor)

corsets-clockworkOn The Cover: Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of Steampunk stories, Corsets & Clockwork. Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing Steampunk genre!

Published: 2011

Why I Chose It: This collection grabbed my attention when I was searching for works by Maria V. Snyder. When I saw the description and list of authors I knew I had to give it a try!

 


 

The Review:

It is very rare in an anthology to like all of the stories it contains, and yet, somehow it has happened. Yes, there are stories in this collection that are very different from what I usually read, some that puzzled me and some that left me thinking, but all of them fascinated me. This collection could have easily been twice as long and I would have happily read it all. This is an extremely strong collection for anyone who likes fantasy or steampunk stories with a romantic element. It has a really great variety of writing and I can’t wait to check out more works by all of the authors.

Overall Rating: 5 / 5

 

My Favourites:

The Clockwork Corset – Adrienne Kress

I loved this story because it was both a solid romance and a solid steampunk. While this story started slow, it continued to get better and better until the ending, which had me totally head over heels. The ending was beautiful – both for the clockwork corset and the romance story. Kress’ story ended up being really sweet and definitely made me smile long after I was finished reading.

 

Tick, Tick, Boom – Kiersten White

This story could have easily been a full novel. I still kind of want this one to be a novel so that I can read it. I fell in love with Catherine within the first page, and her adventure had me tearing through the remainder of the story. I loved that Catherine built devices using pocket watches, and her involvement with the political world was fascinating. White does an amazing job of leaving you wanting more, and oh, do I want more.

 

King of the Greenlight City – Tessa Gratton

When I put down this book, this is the story I kept thinking about. I loved this story. In such a small writing space, Gratton creates an amazing world that has an incredible amount of detail. Not only was I totally swept away by the space in which the characters existed, the characters themselves were totally endearing. This was such a unique and powerful story, and the ending absolutely shocked me, and I simply cannot stop thinking about it. This was easily my favourite short story in the collection.

 


 

Quotations:

“That was the fascinating thing about iron. It could be crafted to look as delicate as a willow branch but still have all the strength of an oak. In this instance, the platform’s supports had been wrought to appear as twisting vines. The natural and the man-made creating a new kind of beauty.” (The Clockwork Corset, Adrienne Kress)

“From the window of the library in the Promethean Tower, Alys could see the crown of the Seventh. A giant model of the solar system turned there with an audible tick-tick-tick. The planets were gilded and silver-cast, glowing in the sunset all the colors of blood. A scattering of glass stars hung from the clockwork and caught the light too, dazzling her eyes. Each was the size of her skull, but from this distance seemed little more than pinpricks against the sky.” (King of the Greenlight City, Tessa Gratton)

 

The Collection:

Rude Mechanicals – Lesley Livingston
The Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe – Frewin Jones
Wild Magic – Ann Aguirre
Deadwood – Michael Scott
Code of Blood – Dru Pagliassotti
The Clockwork Corset – Adrienne Kress
The Airship Gemini – Jaclyn Dolamore
Under Amber Skies – Maria V. Snyder
King of the Greenlight City – Tessa Gratton
The Emperor’s Man – Tiffany Trent
Chickie Hill’s Badass Ride – Dia Reeves
The Vast Machinery of Dreams – Caitlin Kittredge
Tick, Tick, Boom – Kiersten White