Review: “Armada” by Ernest Cline


Armada by Ernest Cline. 372 pages. Broadway Books.

Armada is a classic example of when you buy a book by an author simply because they hit it out of the park on another book that they wrote. It’s also an example of a one-hit wonder.

Here’s the Amazon description:

From the author of Ready Player One, a rollicking alien invasion thriller that embraces and subverts science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline can. 

Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. And too often, he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure. 

So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over into madness. 

Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite videogame, a flight simulator callled Armada–in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders. 

As impossible as it seems, what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revlations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth’s history, its future, even his own life–and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s life in the balance. 

But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking: Doesn’t something about this scenario feel a little bit like…well…fiction? 

At once reinventing and paying homage to science-fiction classics, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before.

It’s a lengthy description, and I think it has to be because they are trying to sell the same idea twice. It’s all about computer games and computer geeks saving the world. The first book, Ready Player One, was relatively unique in that it was tied to a treasure hunt. But in its essence was the novel feature that it was tied to 80s popular media trivia throughout. It made the story unique. That works once. I found that it didn’t seem to work the second time around. This one was unoriginal and lacked anything that made me care about the characters.

It’s a one-trick pony, and Ernest Cline is going to need to find something original if he wants to keep writing successfully. Trouble is, when you have a great success like Ready Player One, which is tied to a Steven Spielberg film, it’s hard to bounce back with something fresh and original.

I give Armada two stars out of five.

 

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