Genre: YA sci-fi // fantasy
Published: July 14th 2015 by Crown Publishing
Recommend-worthy?: For people who will (inevitably) compare this to Ready Player One, maybe not, but for 30 year-olds/sci-fi lovers/or RPO fans-otherwise, a big fat YES.
I absolutely adored Ready Player One (
if you’ve read my blog previously, I’m sure you know that I don’t shut up about it), and Cline’s writing style speaks to me on a whole other level. Did Cline’s writing, and the plot match up to RPO? Absolutely. Did I have the same goosebumps, or like Armada as much as RPO? Not particularly.
However, I’m a big believer in not over-criticising an author’s works based on their other novels that you previously loved. I mean, lightning doesn’t tend to strike twice, and it’s sort of unfair to keep bringing up their “one-hit wonder”. Heck, if ARMADA was Cline’s debut, I feel as if it would have been received better. Alas, somethings aren’t meant to be in this world.
That being said, I did really enjoy ARMADA. Cline has definitely become my pleasure-read, as I love his simplistic, yet composite writing-style. His 80’s sci-fi references were present in their abundance, and even though most of them flew straight over my head (I’m a young bean), it didn’t falter my love of the book too much (apart from maybe the sheer quantity, and over-saturation of nostalgia!).
Zack Lightman plays a lot of video games, and that’s about all he does. Well, apart from getting in fights in school. He’s looked after by his mother, with his father having died in a sewage-plant accident when he was just a baby; this is coincidentally the crux of his reason to get involved in fights.
When he sees an alien spaceship out of the window, he assumes he’s going mad and merging the virtual world with his reality. But oh no, no, no, he couldn’t be more wrong. Some alien life-form (known as the Europans) have stuck a whopping big Swastika on one of Jupiter’s moons, and initiated a 40 year war with the inhabitants of planet Earth. Of course this incident occured under the rule of Richard Nixon AKA THE WORST PRESIDENT, YET BEST FUTURAMA CHARACTER, and Zack’s virtual combat skills have never been more useful as he’s called in (with the rest of the gamers) to save our planet from total annihilation. It turns out that the government – or the EDA (Earth Defence Alliance) – has been drip-feeding the public with invasion preparation, and military scouting through video-games, and sci-fi culture for decades. I loved this idea so much.
Yes, the plot was incredibly cliché, and somewhat predictable, and yes, I didn’t agree with 98% of choices that Zack Lightman (the protagonist) made. BUT AM I WILLING TO LOOK PAST THESE FAULTS? Um, yes!
My two-step guide to winning me over:
- Step 1. Look at self. Are you Ernest Cline? If so, well done, you’ve won me over. If not, see step two.
- Step 2. Bribe me with food: crumpets, cookies, chocolate – these will all suffice.
What I loved:
- Whoadie, and Lex.
- The whole premise of the plot is a super one, I thought. I never would have even considered that the purpose of video-games was for military training, and defense preparation for a proper alien invasion. Well done Cline, you clever bean. It seems so plausible when you think about it! Very 1984-esque. Did the brilliance of the concept live on through the whole plot? Maybe not: I would have loved to have had more detail about Zack’s dad, and his first realisations of the purpose of sci-fi culture. Maybe Cline could have written less about the actual video games, and more about this?
- That being said, the world-building was so on-point. I love that Cline took the time to discuss what the actual game itself entailed, and we were able to witness a couple of missions from Zack and co’s perspective.
- The audacious, and comforting writing-style that I have grown to love. IT’S SO EASY TO FOLLOW, AND MEANS I CAN BE TIRED AND STILL ABSORBED. *applauds*
- The fact that Lex magically had a solution to solve every possible shortcoming of the protagonists’ plan.
- The predictability of the plot was its only major downfall for me. I mean, I’m a sucker for a big surprise or two, but I just felt a little let-down when I could predict the twists 50-pages in.
- There was an unusually high number of grammar mistakes; or maybe I’m being picky,
or wrong myself.
- The over-saturation of 80’s references did start to grate on me. It became quite tedious when Star Wars was mentioned in EVERY. SINGLE. PARAGRAPH. This gif accurately represents how it started to feel.
If you can stomach the cliché plotline, and not be put off by an overload of references, I’d say pick this book up, and give it a go! It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t think anyone could find reason to absolutely despise it… I assume most people will be pretty middle-ground standing, like myself.
What are you currently reading? Is a book being too predictable a turn-off for you? Or do you love having ALL THE KNOWLEDGE and feeling WONDERFULLY CLEVER when you can predict the major plot sequences?