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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Earlier this year I listened to and wrote a review about Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. In that review, I had many, many words of praise for what will no doubt become a gaming geek bible. So when Armada released this summer, I knew I had to have it. If it was half as fun as Ready Player One, I knew I'd be in for a treat. Here's the publishers summary for Armada by Ernest Cline.
"Zack Lightman is a dreamer. He fills his days with wishful thoughts of life on other planets and spends hours playing videogames, neither of which have helped him make friends or find a girlfriend. His refuge from the daily disappointments of life is Armada - an online space-fighter simulator based on defending Earth from an alien invasion. It's when he's playing that he feels closest to his father, a champion gamer who died when Zack was a baby.
He rises up the ranks until there's only one other player who can challenge his worldwide supremacy. As he closes in on his ultimate enemy, the game suspiciously shuts down, leading Zack to investigate the many urban legends and myths that surround Armada. What he finds will take him beyond his wildest dreams.
The game was just the beginning...."
So what did I think? I think the book was completely enjoyable and a fun read. I think it was very well written. Ernest Cline knows how to use the English language. I think it is worth purchasing, but perhaps not as a hardback. I think the issues I have with the book are because it is most assuredly a young adult (YA) novel, and because of that it stuck to a simple plot arc.

Firstly, there was not one single surprise for me in this entire book. The plot was linear and predictable. That isn't saying it wasn't fun. It was hella lot of fun! But it wasn't Area X by any stretch of the imagination. It connected the dots very well to ensure I didn't get lost. I can understand this. In the YA genre, your target audience are those of the same gender as your protagonist and about four years younger. Zack Lightman is 18 years old. You can do the math. To ensure the story wasn't confusing, it was anything but. Don't expect any twists in this plot, but by all means enjoy it for the adventure it is.

The characters in this book were not complicated either. Again, this is a YA thing. All in all they were well written characters, and I cared about them. Bad things happen in this book and at times I wished they hadn't. But there's not a lot of depth to any of them, even the protagonist. I hate to say it, but the bully was probably the most complicated character in the whole book and you have to wait until the end for that pay off.

The one thing that comes out very strongly in this book is the social commentary. It is very apropos to the current social-political climate in the Unites States these days. It wasn't subtly played out either. But again, I think that is the YA genre manifesting itself appropriately.

If you have a teenager, it would not be a bad thing for them to read this book. It touches on several issues that seem to plaque teenagers no matter the generation. In that regard Ernest Cline is very well in touch with the audience for this book. I feel he nails it in many of these areas. I won't say what they are because spoilers.

One thing I was impressed with was Wil Wheaton's reading of it. This is one of his best voice acting jobs to date in my opinion. He just keeps getting better year after year. It was a real pleasure listening to him reading this story. If you are a Wil Wheaton fan, it is worthwhile to get the audio book just for his performance.

In summary, this was a very enjoyable action packed story worth reading. However, it isn't Ready Player One. It does suffer a bit from The Empire Strikes Back syndrome. And it is YA, which is not a bad thing, but something one should consider. All that said, if you want just a really fun read that will pass a few hours pleasurably, this is a good choice.

Lastly, it is my sincerest hope that Ernest Cline will try his hand at an older protagonist soon. I would love to see what he can do with a forty-year old main character. He almost got there in Armada, but I'll not say how and why because spoilers. The character in question left me wanting more 40-year-old writing from Mr. Cline. Hopefully I won't have to wait long.

Oh, and the Raid the Arcade mix is AWESOME. Look it up on Spotify or Google Music. ;)

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