The new novel from the best-selling author of Ready Player One
It's just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom - if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.
Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.
At first Zack thinks he's going crazy.
A minute later he's sure of it. Because the UFO 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.
But what Zack'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.
Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can't help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching and wonder: Doesn't something about this scenario seem a little too...familiar?
Armada is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming-of-age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you've ever heard before - one whose every minute is infused with author Ernest Cline's trademark pop-culture savvy.
©2015 Ernest Cline (P)2015 Random House Audio
I wasn't thrilled with finishing this book. I went in with very high expectations, considering how much I loved Ready Player One. There were a few decent elements of this that really showed promise, but the overall story was a Last Starfighter meets Ender's Game. I didn't think it was "terrible", but there were times I thought originality was lacking. Trying to separate out my expectations is tough, so three stars is where I decided.
I get the desire to include a romance element into the story, but this aspect was way too brief to be even slightly believable - so that's probably the main area I would change. The best parts of the book had to do with the time frame between learning the origins/effects of the game, and the actual fighting. That element was the most interesting, and offered some real opportunity. The ending was just way to predictable and too similar to other esteemed cult classics, but can one suggest a different ending?
When Wil tries to display angst or sadness in talking, it makes me smile. So rather than a particular character (there's not a whole lost of character differences), I'll have to go with Wil trying to portray the appropriate emotion. I think he does excitement, interest, smugness, non-emotion really well. Any type of negative emotion pretty much sounds like he's 9, and his friend just broke his favorite toy (sometimes that's what you want, but sometimes not). Still enjoyable :)
Well, I'm a nerd, and it'd be a movie about a gamer becoming a real space fighter.... so um, yeah, It's a safe bet that I would go see it.
If you enjoyed Ready Player One, then you are going to read/listen to this no matter a review, so you might as well just buy it. It's not "terrible", but it's not going to be as good as Ready Player One. It's almost unfair for Cline that our expectations are unreasonably high due to how good RPO was.
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
I loved Cline's first novel, Ready Player One, because it was an exciting, intelligent plot, and an orgy of 80's nostalgia. The writing was immature, and the book had many flaws, but I forgave it everything because it was so much fun.
I was prepared to absolutely love Armada. I pre-ordered it on the first day it was possible to do so. I also listened to it the instant it became available. And I cringed my way through every painful second of it.
While the 80s nostalgia seemed to be a genuine, organic thing in Ready Player One, it seemed forced and gratuitous in Armada. Reference after reference after reference was made from the first page to the last... but unlike in Ready Player One, the referenced 80s games, movies and music serve no purpose in the story. OH, a handful of them are critical to the backstory, but 99 percent of every reference made in this book is just transparent pandering to the audience. HA! REFERENCES! HA! I REMEMBER THINGS. DO YOU REMEMBER THOSE THINGS TOO? HA! ISN'T IT FUNNY TO REMEMBER THINGS?
Next let's talk about the characters. Really there was only ONE character in the whole book: a person of loves video games, who is a nerdy outcast, smart but misunderstood, who loves 80s nostalgia, who acts inappropriately and unprofessionally, and who is social awkward. There. I've just described EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON in this entire novel.
The plot is half-baked, and Cline knows it. He deals with the problem by sweeping it under the rug. He pretends that the weirdness will be dealt with, but really he ends the book with a very rushed, very lame explanation that even the protagonist isn't happy with.
There is absolutely no nuance to the plot, either. We go from point A to point B without any plot twists, and without our main character experiencing any sort of real drama or crisis... not in the literary sense. At no point in this book do you ever get to ask yourself "How will he get out of this?!".
The dialog is lame. There is no ACTUAL humor at all. Every "joke" in the book boils down to: "HA! REFERENCES!".
I'm so incredibly disappointed in Cline. He's shown no growth at all in his writing, apparently learning nothing at all from the criticisms of his first book. And instead of doing something truly original here, he's produced an entire book that is just shameless pandering to his audience.
Like so many sequels, the author failed to understand what made his first work great, and so he repeated all the wrong things in his second work, while leaving out the heart.
designer and aritst
Man, what a let down. I really wanted to like this book. But I just didn't, for the most part. If Ready Player One was your witty, geeky friend who peppers a lively conversation with the occasional, knowing pop-culture nod then Armada is the boring, geeky friend who is always trying too hard and doesn't seem to realize that spouting movie quotes isn't actually a substitute for carrying on a conversation.
It's not all bad. There are fun moments. The dissection of video game logic is fun. But the characters are so flimsy they are non-existent. It's hard to care about their fates. The female love interest, Lex, is not a character at all, just some perfect alt-girl wet dream. Everyone else is cardboard cannon fodder. And, yes, the basic plot is an "homage" to a couple stories from the 80s. It wears that on its sleeve. But, to me an homage really works best if you do something new with it. Cline tries, but his answer to that is a "big reveal" at the end that has also BEEN DONE TO DEATH. A couple times in Star Trek alone. And it's dreadfully boring.
Which leads to the writing. The incessant references and quotes get irritating after a while. Why a kid who grew up in the 90s is obsessed with 80s pop culture is explained in the story due to him trying to connect with his dead father. But, it doesn't explain why any of the other young adults in the book seem to only be obsessed with it, too. When Lex's playlist is revealed, for instance, it's all 80s music too. It just further reinforces the sense that these aren't real characters at all. Just cardboard cut-outs trundling along to the book's predictable end. Cline seems to lose interest in the book by the end, too, as a climactic scene goes into "tell don't show" mode as a series of "And then he did this and then this and then this" sentences, sucking away all the drama at a time when it really could have used it.
Also, what happens at the end doesn't really make sense to me. But, that'd be spoiler territory so I won't mention it. Just ask yourself.... "Did that really prove anything?"
This feels like a fumble. But I wouldn't swear off further books by Cline. His style is very straightforward and simple, but there's certainly some charm to it. He just needs better developed characters. And I'd steer away from pop culture-fests for a while. I listened to the audio-book, and I'll say that Wil Wheaton does a great job with it. I kind of wish I'd listened to RPO on audio, now.
Look, I enjoyed a good deal of the book. Will was great. But it paled in comparison. Ready Player One was so awesome, I couldn't help but compare the two. Too much of the book was like a long video game. If you are into that, this book may blow you away. I'm not. And it didn't. Still, I enjoyed the characters and relationships. Great narration. For me, still worth reading. .
It was choppy and pointless. There were entire plot threads left hanging because the author must have been on some sort of deadline. Very badly written book.
He could have thought it completely out. For instance he starts in on a subplot about how everyone seems strangely calm in the face of an alien invasion. It makes no sense to the narrator/protagonist of the book but we never find out anything else about it. Its just mentioned, then ignored. The whole book is like that..interesting asides are brought up, then cast off.
He does a great job with voices, with adding emotion to the reading and with keeping the action in tune with his modulation. He is among the best at this.
The tacked on girlfriend, who is a nerd/goth perfect lust object. Pointlessly brought in, and about as cardboard cutout as a character can get....except she gets drunk one minute and is suddenly sober the next. Which is another example of the bad writing.
Disappointed in every way with this book....of you are thinking that maybe people are being too hard on the author because they expected something similar to Ready Player One, then you have it backwards. This was written to be like an extension to RPO, but the issue is, its very poorly done. Do not buy this book...trust me.
A real plot and some substance. I agree with many of the other reviewers that this story arc is thin follow up to RP1. It meanders and was almost unlistenable from the midpoint on.
So, I suppose, a real story arc and some aggressive editing.
Not at all, although it has put a damper on my Ernest Cline genre!
Total owership of the characters, consistency and energy. I didn't finish this offering, but would have asked for a refund if not for his liveliness and honest performance.
Not really. It isn't trash, but it was dissappointing.
Will W. provides this offering it's only redeeming qualities. Truth alert here...I couldn't finish this as it just went..ahem..no where..and was more a recital of 80's memories then anything else. I suppose if you are a total gaming geek it is wonderful, but in terms of a cogent sci fi thriller novel, it doesn't work.
Not recommended, unfortunately.
If you're like me, you probably LOVED ready player one. It went down in my top 5, and started keeping an eye on Ernest Cline. And probably like me, You saw this book, thinking this has to be at least almost as good as ready player one? Well im hear to tell you, we were all wrong. Yes this book is PACKED full of 80's and 90's geek references from arcade games, to D&D, and inspirational sci-fi movies. However the story and nostalgia we were expecting were poorly executed, and borderline lazy.
"Nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia"
In ready player one, all those references to good times in our childhood and teenage years, were actually important to explaining the believable story. Here however, its Nostalgia for the sake of Nostalgia.... 90% of the references made had no purpose, nor did they help advance the story. For instance, an event happens, the event is described, and then compared to something in geek culture, and then rinse and repeat. It's just as silly as describing what kind of plant is in the room, its color, and what type of pottery, but serves no purpose other than "Plant Nostalgia".
"a teenager's day dream"
In ready player one, the story and setting took place in a very probable future. Economy collapsing under the weight of over population, Energy crisis, and constant war. A very unhappy place to live, but with the magic of the internet and VR, people could escape their troubled lives for a few hours a day. In Armada, the biggest online multiplayer game, just so happened to be developed by the greatest minds in the game industry, just so happens to secretly be a training program, for teenagers to take part in the war against aliens using multi million dollar equipment. Also known as, a Teenagers day dream, to justify their heavy consumption of video games. This setting seems more of a personal fantasy of his from high school.
TLDR; Armada is the result of Ready Player One being so successful, that he thought he could hastily jot down his study hall day dreams into a book, slap an encyclopedia of geek culture in every other sentence, and expect it to be successful. Im sorely disappointed in Ernest Cline, he's a much better author than this, but taking advantage of our love for Ready Player One is a low blow. He lost a fan as quickly as he got one.
2 out of 5 *not worth finishing*
Unfortunately for me, Armada fell flat; despite Wil Wheaton knocking it out of the park again in his reading (though there were some level issues between cuts). I would have hoped that Cline had grown as a writer after Ready Player One (RPO), but he seems to have ascribed to the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mantra. The problem is that approach doesn't work with writing unless you're going to continue an existing story.
Here are some of my issues:
1) First Person Narrative - This worked for RPO, but I think it actually hindered the story in Armada. Cline should have gone with a traditional 3rd person narrative, especially when your core audience consists of 30 and 40 somethings with a penchant for the nostalgic. Believe it or not, we can handle more than one narrative at a time. This would have allowed him to expand the story beyond just one character's experiences.
2) Weak Character Development - When the action spun up I found myself thinking, "Why do I even care about X that just happened to Y?" or "Who was Y again?" Some characters are out of the story just a quickly as they are introduced. At one point I didn't immediately tie a particular character to one that was introduced earlier in the book, and felt a bit perturbed when I realized it.
3) Forced Pop Culture - In RPO the pop culture references felt natural in the context of the story. In Armada it's like Cline was pulling them out of a hat and inserting them at random. Had the story been set in the 80s it might have worked better, but would have worsened the effect of my next point.
4) Far-Fetched Technology - The story is supposed to take place in not-too-distant future (a few years or so). However the story introduced technology for which I suspect there aren't even theories on how it would work (and thus he just glosses over them in the story). RPO gave him freedom because of the virtual nature of the world he painted. However, for Armada it just felt wrong.
5) Stereotypical Military - As a military brat the stereotypical way in which Cline represents the military is a pet peeve of mine. I already have a pretty good idea of Cline's social views thanks to his multi-page tirade at the beginning of RPO (which he thankfully did NOT do in Armada), but in Armada he pretty much gives a giant middle finger to the military and (for the most part) conservative thinking. I don't think Cline's trying to create Orwellian like discussions around his novels (and he's nowhere near as subtle as Orwell), so he's probably better off leaving his politics out of his books.
6) Impractical Hacking - This might seem a bit nitpicky, but as a software engineer by trade it bugs me when "hackers" are thrown into stories in unbelievable ways and become major a plot device. It's just lazy writing; especially in the time frame in which the story takes place.
In the end, Armada comes off as a mash up of a classic 80s book with a classic 80s sci-fi flick. The problem is we already have those stories and really didn't need to mash them up. Where RPO was a somewhat original tale, Armada felt like the recycled Hollywood garbage that has festered in movie theaters for the last two decades. So you have to ask yourself, "Do we really need this story?"
I thought Wil Wheaton mispronouncing names from the Star Wars films was going to be the worst part of the book. Then I thought the way Cline's name dropping of modern games making it seem like the book was written by a 55 year old, who hadn't actually touched a video game since Reagan was president was the worst part of the book.
By the time Zack is talking to Admiral Vance, I threw down my headphones in disgust. This story is lame, and predictable. Half of the book had passed and we'd only just covered everything in the publisher's blurb. Every time I restarted the book, more of that conversation made me turn it off again, and again.
There is no worst part of the book. It's just bad. It reads like the distilled mistakes of Ready Player One. It reads like poor fanfiction. Scenes of 80's action-scifi movies are lifted in their entirety, with lines intact and occasionally, we even get the narrator telling us which movie.
Say something about yourself!
If you read the summary, you know going into this that it's essentially The Last Starfighter with a dash of Ender's Game for good measure. After the incredible originality and genius of Ready Player One, I suspected there was so much more to this one that could not be revealed by a publisher's blurb.
How wrong I was.
I spent the bulk of this novel knowing that Cline was in his element and so much better than this. I think what we have here is the classic example of the "sophomore slump" book.
That said... die-hard video gamers will still find plenty to enjoy about this one, as will those who live for the pop culture reference. Take it on its own and try not to compare, and it has a fighting chance to win you over. I'm largely unable to view anything in a vacuum, hence my disappointment.
Wil Wheaton once more lends his geek cred and delivers a stellar performance. He and Cline practically share the same soul on this material, so he's the natural choice to narrate all of Cline's work.
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