Ernest Cline doesn’t seem to know what a sophomore slump is as he hit the mark again with his second novel, Armada. His new tale involves an action-packed story of an alien invasion with a deadline and a secret organization’s race against the clock to defeat them and to save the people of Earth. Sure, it may be a pretty stereotypical storyline, but Cline found a way to present this much-used story in a fresh and new way with Armada.
From my perspective, Armada is a “coming of age” tale for the main character, Zack Lightman. Zack is an 18-year-old kid who is on the verge of graduating from high school. He has some anger issues. He obsessed with the same nerdy pop culture that his late father was into. With mediocre grades and no other “real” skills and in an attempt to connect his life to that of the father he lost at a young age, Zack’s life has been dedicated to video games, and one game in particular; Armada.
One day when trying to make it through his school day, Zack’s world is turned upside down. While daydreaming in class, he sees an enemy spaceship, straight out of favorite video game, out the window. He tries to shake it off and blame it on the daydreaming, but the feeling that what he saw was real keeps plaguing him. The next day, the Earth Defense Alliance, an organization, again, straight out of Armada, comes to his school. As the #6 ranked Armada player in the world, the Earth Defense Alliance calls upon Zack to use his video game skills to help save the world from an extraterrestrial invasion. We follow along with Zack has he (we) learn about the alien threat to Earth and all of the people on it. Zack gets his assignment in saving the world and we are off on a fast-paced adventure with him to defeat the aliens and save the human race.
Armada doesn’t take long to go from 0-60 in intensity and get the reader (or at least me) hooked into it. The scale of the story is huge, as a “save the world” storyline goes, taking place in many locations (including the moon!). Using unmanned, remotely controlled robotic equipment to fight the alien invasion, the fights get pretty intense and epic. There are many large-scale action scenes throughout the book and all of them are so well written, which makes these epic battle scenes easy to visualize and understand.
Overall, the storyline is pretty straight forward. It would have been nice to see a couple more twists and turns in the plot to make it even more exciting and intriguing. Sure, there’s a little twist towards the end, but it’s not really a surprise as the story is actually building to that particular little twist.(So is it still considered a twist?)
It was different (in a good way) for the characters in a story to be so aware of its storyline. When you see zombie apocalypse stories, the people in those stories have never seen a zombie show or movie. People in horror movies make all the same cliché mistakes, as they never seem to have seen a single horror movie in their whole lives. In complete contrast with that, the characters in Armada are very aware of what is going on, as the video game is literally coming to life. They know what to do and how to defeat the bad guys, as they have been doing it for years. I think this was an entertaining way to put a spin on a very recognizable storyline.
Zack is really the only character that we spend any amount of time with. He’s pretty much the only character that we see any emotional growth from. Even though he’s an 18-year-old boy, I found him to be real and quite relatable. It was fun to live the experience alongside him.
The rest of the cast of characters is relatively diverse in age, religion, race, and gender. They play their parts well. They are smart and funny and talented. They banter well with Zack and the other characters, and they get to play their parts in defending Earth as well. I wish that some of them got bigger roles in the book, a little more dialogue, a little bigger part in saving the world, instead of so much focus on Zack, but what we did get to see of them was really great.
How does it compare to Ready Player One?
I’m sure there are many people who picked up Armada because they read Ernest Cline’s previous book, Ready Player One. So, how do the two books compare? Well, I’m happy to say that both books hooked me in and I really enjoyed both of them. I didn’t even make it half way through either book before I was at the point that I just didn’t want to put it down. However, they both drew me in for different reasons. While Ready Player One hooked me because of my insatiable need to get the answer, to see the solution to the puzzle of the main storyline, Armada hooked me because of the large amount of action. Armada doesn’t have the intrigue and mystery of Ready Player One, but it does have a lot of excitement and a large-scale storyline.
Overall, I find that I liked Ready Player One just a little bit better. I’d give Ready Player One 9.8 out of 10. But I still really enjoyed Armada a lot. It was fun and big and epic and great. I would give Armada 9.0 out of 10. I had to knock a few points off for the “too straight-forward” storyline, and knock a few more off because of the lack of “page time” any of the other characters get vs. Zack.
Even though Armada follows a pretty straight forward storyline, it does it in a new and different way. It is still a great read with a lot of action to entertain, an interesting main character to connect with, and plenty of nerdy references to please. I highly recommend picking up Armada. It is an enjoyable, easy, and fun read.