I freaking love Ernest Cline. He is an author that I had no idea existed until I got a hold of Ready Player One, his first ever novel and that book was VERY hard for me to put down. That book is straight up amazing and I was really happy to hear that Cline also wrote the screenplay for the movie that I can’t wait to come out. But this isn’t a review for Ready Player One, this is a review for the follow up book and that book is Armada. A book that I was a tad nervous in reading but so glad I did.
The premise for the story is that here is this very popular game is actually a training simulator for a top secret international military organization that also appears in said game. Our main hero, Zack, sees an enemy spaceship from the game (which is called Armada) outside his school and thinks he’s hallucinating. Turns out he wasn’t as it was an actual spaceship from the game and joins the ranks of the Earth Defense Alliance to stop the invaders from destroying Earth. This is just the bare bones plot line and no I will not spoil the ending, but we can sure as hell talk about it.
The best thing I loved about RPO were the references to classic videogames and movies, Armada has no shortage but they mostly focus on the science fiction films and games, as it should since the main focus is a space battle videogame. The characters are diverse in the sense of background, gaming ability, and profession. I laughed at the fact that one of the main characters is a mother of 3 who plays videogames with her sons. I really thought that was cool since I plan to be the type of parent who plays videogames with his kids. The book was also funny, quoting 80’s movies like Top Gun, Star Wars, and TV shows made for great comedy and fan service. I laughed my ass off when a high ranking officer quoted a line straight out of Top Gun by telling Zack he will “fly a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.” Cline also writes the action scenes very well, and it was easy to visualize the alien ships coming in and our heroes weaving in and out of enemy fire. During these scenes I would reposition myself in my chair because things were getting intense and I would forget about everything around me for a little.
I only have 2 complaints about the book, the way it ended and being able to predict a death in the story. There is a character who gets revealed in the story (once again no spoilers) who is very important to Zack. When I first met him I thought, “Crap, well he is going to die,” and he does. Granted he dies in a heroic fashion but I think he didn’t need to and the story would have progressed just fine with him surviving. This character’s death also leads directly into the ending of the story which explains why the aliens were attacking the Earth in the first place, as well as their choice in tactics (this is also a pretty big plot point) and why they have used them. While reading it instead of being wowed and breathing a sigh of relief that everything is fine I was a little let down. I was hoping for a bit of a grander fight and a showdown between Zack and the leader of the alien invaders. The ending that Cline wrote was still good but I was hoping for a bit of a more dramatic ending.
Besides those 2 complaints I still found the book to be extremely enjoyable. Especially since Cline himself is a total nerd and makes no shortages of fan service and jokes and references that only a select few will get. This will be the second time that Cline has made me actually want to sit down and read a book for the sake of reading and wanting to know what happens next. RPO reminded me on how much I loved reading novels and Armada did the same thing. I also have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the fact that RPO and Armada are one and done books. In a world that is constantly spitting out sequels and series, its nice to just read a story and not have to wait for the next one to come out. On the other hand I love these characters and would love to see them get into more adventures, especially with RPO (RPO is the second book that I have read twice in my entire life). All in all Armada is a fun read for lovers of sci-fi and nostalgia. Was it better than RPO? Oh hell no, but it was still a book that I enjoyed reading and I can’t wait to read his next work. I am so freaking glad that it is on my self.