Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Published by Crown Publishing

Ernest Cline's sophomore novel Armada follows the immensely popular debut novel Ready Player One, a modern classic. I've read both of Mr. Cline's books this year and have been impressed by his encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture even if I didn't get all the references.

I can't possibly understand the pressure to come up with a story that matches the creativity and sheer fun of such a great first book but somehow the author has pulled it off. Armada follows Zack Lightman an avid gamer and dedicated pop culture enthusiast thanks to the legacy his deceased father left behind. Zack is one of the best gamers in the world similar to Wade Watts in Cline's first novel. The parallels are impossible to miss but since this is a storyline that I have already bought into once I was more than willing to follow along with it. I feel it is unfair to judge this book in comparison but then again not to is impossible. Zack has a very similar voice and Ernest Cline's tendency to throw pop culture references and any opportune moment makes this a similar read. What I'm saying is that if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one as well.

There did seem to be a few parts that were rushed, like Zack's initiation into the Earth Defense Alliance, almost like the author got bored with the high school drama part, which he does really well, and wanted to get on to the space action. It has that 80's movie vibe with the troubled kid getting a chance to save the world because of a skill that seemed useless turning out to be crucially important to the continuing existence of humanity. When I read this book, I have to struggle not to put it down and pick up a gaming controller.

Reading this book is like playing a video game and it follows very similar level structure, in this case waves of alien drone invaders. The most intriguing part was the mystery. This isn't just a cut and dry alien invasion story and the constant twists made me want to keep turning pages to find out what's next.

Ernest Cline could continue with his pop culture shtick and crank out several more novels like this but he is such a great writer and has such clever ideas for science fiction, I would be curious to read something of his that is wholly original. He loves this stuff though, that is so evident from every page and it makes me enthusiastic about it as well. It is so nice to see a true fan turning that passion into success. I am a slight generation behind him so some references are just over my head but he doesn't lose me as a reader because he often does a good job explaining their background and not bogging down the plot. I could see this book having a sequel if he wanted and I'm so looking forward to the Spielberg adaptation of his first book. 

I got a chance to see Ernest Cline speak at Joseph-Beth booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky. Despite his awesome space saga, he seems like a very down to earth individual, kind, friendly, funny and full of good stories. It is nice when you are a fan of someone who seems genuinely kindhearted. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us next! 

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