Sunday, 26 July 2015

Book Review – Armada


In the wake of reading Ready Player One, and given that I was more than a little late to that particular party, I picked up the next book by Ernest Cline as soon as it came out on the hope that it would be a book of at least similar humour and wit.

Lightning does not often strike twice

I wish it had this time...

Armada starts in the same way as Ready Player One. Zack, a young man who lost his father at a very early age is making his way in the world one day at a time, with the only exceptional thing about him being his skills at video games.  The world is a dark and miserable place, until one day he finds out that all the games he’s ever played were part of a government sponsored plan to teach the whole world how to fight an impending alien invasion and he’s been specifically selected to help the war effort along with the other elite game players.

Yes, someone rewrote the Last Starfighter...

In and of itself, that’s not a problem, I liked the Last Starfighter...

But it’s more than that, the story is tagged together, but obviously so. Here there’s a bit of the Last Starfighter, there’s some Star Wars, here’s some Robotech, there’s some American Pie, and while its all well and good to borrow things from other series, the one thing you don’t do is point out that that’s what you’re doing...

There was my biggest problem, every time a bit I recognised came along, it was less than a half page before Zack considered where the quote came from, it came across as if the author was trying to prove how much pop culture he was familiar with and for me, it disrupted the story badly. 

The book tries to keep the same level of geek savvy and pop culture references that were in the first book, but Armada fails where Ready Player One succeeded, and it’s for one very good reason.  The references in the first book weren’t jaded or rehashed from anything else, they were all relevant to the situation at hand, and most importantly...

They were all right...

The first book was so endearing because of that intimate knowledge, you could empathise with Wade because he was a geek, absolutely one of us.  He obsessed over certain things and he had the knowledge to go with those obsessions, he got the details right and he was proud that he got them right.  In Armada, Zack is also supposedly a geek, and while he’s quoting from the same sources that Wade was, he gets things right, but when he goes off piste (Top Gun for example), the knowledge isn’t there, he draws conclusions from things that weren’t correct, or worse, were misquoted...

(Yes, I do love Top Gun, and I know the difference between Viper and Stinger...)


I liked Ready Player One, took me two days to finish, but I enjoyed almost all of it.  Armada I finished in a morning and when I was done, I had no desire to go back to it, and in the world of reminiscence fiction, not wanting to go back to something isn’t a good thing...

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