Armada by Ernest Cline
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on July 14, 2015
Genre(s): fiction, science fiction
Format & Length: audiobook, 11:49:19
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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?
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.
When I first read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. So when I saw his sophomore novel, Armada, available in audiobook from my library, I decided on a whim to give it a shot. While it didn’t live up to Ready Player One, it still wound up being a fun listening experience.
This story follows Zack, an 18 year old high school student who spends most of his time playing video games and devouring science fiction books and movies. And let’s just say, the skills he’s learned from these hobbies come in handy as the events in the book unfold. Sound familiar? Cline clearly has a niche that he likes to stick to not only with his characters, but also his writing style and plot choices.
What I personally enjoy about Cline’s distinct voice is its snappy tone and wit, and the way he weaves pop culture references into his stories. In this case, though, it was a bit much. Although it was clearly intentional, the story needed an injection of a bit more originality to make it stand out. As is, it felt derivative.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I listened to the audiobook, I might have decided to not finish this. But Will Wheaton’s narration was excellent. My only exposure to the actor has been through his recurring role in The Big Bang Theory so this not only seemed an appropriate choice but he also breathed life into the story with voice acting that added entertainment value.
In the end, Armada was fine. I’d definitely recommend trying it in audio if you like books in that format.