Sunday, July 26, 2015

Armada Book Review: An 80’s Classic for the Current Age



Ernest Cline second book didn’t disappoint me. Could anything live up to the crazy hype which has been generated by his epic first novel Ready Player One? I really don’t think so. Is Armada as good as Ready Player One? No, not quite, but it’s a different type of book and was still immensely enjoyable. The hero is likeable, his sidekicks are interesting, and the story is fast paced and exciting. You can’t ask for much more out of a novel. Armada takes the best aspects of 80’s science fiction movies and brings them together. While reading the book, I felt like I was reading an adaption of a classic 80s movie. If you ever have enjoyed 80’s science fiction action adventure, then you should enjoy Armada.
Armada follows the journey of Zach Lightman, who has always dreamed of being whisked away on a grand adventure. He was instantly relatable to me. I spent countless hours in my youth daydreaming about being taken away and caught up in a galactic struggle. Like in The Last Starfighter or Star Wars. Granted it wasn’t in my high school years, but many of my elementary years where filled with this dream. Lucky for Zach, or so we think at the time, he gets to go on the adventure. Zach sees a starship from his favorite video game outside of his school. At first he thinks he is going crazy, but soon learns the Earth will be under attack.  The video games he has been playing for years are training simulators for everyone on the globe. Zach is quickly transported to a secret global defense base where he learns about the aliens and what is at stake.
Armada is standard classic science fiction adventure. I loved reading the book, and all of Cline’s pop references to the 80s and current day. Nerds get to save the earth! What more can you ask for? Well I’m glad you askedJ. Armada does have a couple of issues. While I loved the quick pace of the book, it didn’t leave much for character development. Zach has good growth and development, but we don’t get to see him develop any meaningful relationships with anyone else in the book.  I also found it a tad predictable, but that’s because it follows classic science fiction adventure tropes. I won’t say cliché, because the book has original thought. I just would have liked one more surprise or twist thrown in at some point, for no other reason because I’m greedy.
I think many could complain about the standard storyline, but if the hero is likeable and the adventure feels fresh you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  What makes Armada so much fun are the culture references. I even had to look up a few, just because I’m not as immersed in some of the gamer culture as I am in the movie and book genres. They fit perfectly into the book, because they are a part of our hero, and part of us as a culture. I won’t spoil a main plot point, but the theories put forth by Zach’s Father, while crazy, are great to lose yourself in.  While the book is great fun, it does speak on a deeper level about us as a culture.
Ready Player One, I thought had a great message about not living your life completely through technology. Armada is another coming of age story, but its message dealt more with the unity of the human race, and what it would take to unite everyone for a common cause.  I don’t think the main theme is as prevalent as Ready Player One, but it still has a good message.  Maybe the theme will be continued in another Armada novel.
 Armada seems to be setup for a sequel. At least I hope so.  There seems to be more story for Zach Lightman and his friends. Ready Player One could have a sequel, but I feel it is a great standalone novel that doesn’t really need one. Armada seems ripe for a trilogy. I am hopeful, because I want to see Zach and his friends get fleshed out as characters.
Writing such a great novel your first time out is a spectacular thing. I can only imagine how much pressure Mr. Cline felt in trying to write a second novel. He did a great job, and I loved reading his second offering. If you like Science Fiction and are a fan of 80’s cinema read this novel!!
My Rating: Must Read for 80’s or pop culture junkies  
My Top five Favorite 80’s Science Fiction Adventure Movies:
1.      Star Wars (Duh)
2.      The Last Starfighter
3.      Explorers
4.      Flight of the Navigator

5.      Flash Gordon

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