Armada by Ernest Cline Book Review

Armada by Ernest Cline 
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: July 14, 2015

Zack Lightman is a directionless dreamer. Working at a comic book store and obsessed with video games, he doesn't really see much of a future for himself beyond high school. Perhaps this is because his dad died at the age of nineteen and Zach has always felt like part of himself is living in the past. Zach knows that aimless teenagers never save the universe, but then, that's what video games are for right? But what if all those video games are a testing ground for some secret alien invasion? Sounds crazy until Zach sees a flying saucer and a few days later that same flying saucer shows up at his school to recruit him to fight said aliens. Now, it is up to the gamers across the world to save the earth from annihilation.

Back when I used to review movies, I rated movies on a ten point scale rather than five. There was a method to my madness, but the two important things that you need to know for the purpose of this review was numbers six and seven. Most movies are a seven. Good, but with enough plot holes that it can't quite make it into the the upper numbers. A seven is an enjoyable enough film, but is certainly not going to win any awards and probably has a few plot holes too. A six is very similar but with one caveat, these movies are usually for a very specific audience. For example: I adore the movie Ladyhawke. It isn't that great of a film, but for those who love fantasy movies it has earned itself a cult classic status.

Armada is a 6/10.

I enjoy playing video games, but I am by no means a gamer. This book is for gamers. Gamers are an integral part of the plot, great detail is put into the fictional video games, a ton of gamer history, and then gamers save the world. It's not necessarily a terrible book, just that the audience is very narrow.

Putting that aside, one of my biggest complaints about the book was how little I cared for the main character. Zach is an aimless nobody with a dead-daddy complex whose life revolves around video games. He had no ambition, no drive, and a pretty flat personality in my mind. The secondary characters on the other hand were kind of fun. I loved the girl Zach meets at boot camp, although Cline doesn't really do much with her which is disappointing. His commander on the moon base has the most pathos of any of the characters and frankly I would have rather read his story, but that just wasn't in the cards. For the record, the pacing and build-up at that non-existent book would have been so much better too. Even his gamer best friends back home were somewhat entertaining although a bit cliche.

The constant 80's references that worked in Ready Player One felt clunky in this book. Zach's dad loved the eighties so Zach does too and so all of his pop-culture references come from that era and not the one he actually lives in. Sure there are teens out there who like the eighties, but it just felt like a gimmick and not an actual obsession.

Let's make no mistake this is a rehash of The Last Starfighter but more boring because everyone uses drones, but will make the gamers happy because it gives meaning to all those hours spent playing a game. I didn't like it, but there is a specific group of people out there would will find it enjoyable.