Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline


Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: From Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like he countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the different between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship 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.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’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.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a lot great things about Ernest Cline and his book Ready Player One but I hadn’t picked it up for myself. When I heard about his latest, Armada, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. As it was, Armada was a story filled with action and pop culture references that made the nerd in me happy.

Zack has spent all his life so far preferring the world of science fiction to the one he lives in. He spends his days dreaming of adventure, of something that will make his life more exciting and more interesting. He knows that it isn’t likely to happen in his small Oregon town, but he can always hope. And now there’s a flying saucer just outside the window of his classroom. Zack thinks he has to be dreaming, especially since the ship looks just like the ones he spends his free time shooting down in his favourite video game. But as unlikely as it seems, what Zack is seeing is real: aliens are preparing to attack Earth and gamers everywhere are needed to help protect the planet. What used to only be real in video games is now reality. But in the middle of it all, Zack can’t help but think that everything seems a little to familiar, it seems a little too much like everything he’s seen in science fiction.

In my reading, just like in my TV and movie viewing habits, I try to be balanced and read a little from every genre. Sure, there are genres that I will gravitate to more than others, but I try to read a bit of everything. But science-fiction tends to be a genre I don’t get to as much. For that reason alone, reading Ernest Cline’s Armada was an interesting experience. I’m not going to lie. For the first part of the book it felt like I was getting sci-fi pop culture whiplash. There were so many references being dropped left, right and centre and as many as I knew and recognized, there was an equal number that went over my head. For a while, I kind of pulled me out of the story, but I was able to quickly move past it and for much of the rest of the book, the references would make me smile. And it made the story that much more fun to read, because both eh author and his characters are as huge geeks as the people who will be reading Armada. 

Beyond the pop culture geekiness, Armada was an engaging story, one that drew me in. And once the action started, I was having trouble putting the book down. I wanted to find out how everything would go down. Would the aliens really attack? Would gamers all over the world be the ones to save earth? Is all our science fiction actually fiction? There were so many questions that I needed answers to. And those questions were more than answered, with me often being able to clearly picture those answers. And that’s because Ernest Cline is a very visual writer. While reading, I could definitely tell that he was a screenwriter before being a novelist. There were so many vivid  descriptions of what was happening that made it really easy to understand everything that was happening in the story. And made me think that Armada will make one hell of a movie.

Zack was a pretty great hero, especially since he didn’t really feel like a hero while I was reading. I mean, yes he was looking for more adventure in his life and was a top notch pilot in the Armada video game, but when things got a little dicey (to put it mildly), he was kind of a reluctant hero. Zack didn’t want his loved ones to die and he wanted to protect them, but it didn’t necessarily feel like he wanted to be responsible for saving all of humanity. So it made Zack a really interesting character, especially since the story was told from his perspectives. As a reader, it sometimes felt more like Zack didn’t want to believe what was happening was actually happening. Or that what was motivating him was getting answers about what really happened to his father. And on that topic there’s so much I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. So to make a long story short, I really liked Zack. How he wasn’t your “typical” action hero. He was just someone who was REALLY good at one particular video game and that turned out to be what was needed to save humanity. No big deal.

Though Ernest Cline’s Armada isn’t necessarily something I would pick up on my own, I found myself really enjoying the story. The plot and the characters both drew me in and the action kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading. And now I need to go read Ready Player One.

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