Everyday Review - Armada by Ernest Cline

Like most children of the 80's I read Cline's Ready Player One so fast I thought I had lived it myself.  The references to all the things I enjoyed and found fascinating were recreated using the technology we now know and the story was exciting.  The feature film made some understandable adjustments (After all, how would a person recreating the entire film War Games from memory work?) and was a fun way to see all the hidden images from the book.  Wil Wheaton for Mayor!

So when I learned he had a second novel after Ready Player One, Armada, available at the local library I had the wife reserve it for me.

Around 2003, as I began to play Halo on the PC, I imagined a remake of one of my favorite films, The Last Starfighter, but remade around an online fantasy game that trained pilots the same way Alex Rogan learned to be the gunner of a gunstar in the original movie.

Armada follows this basic premise.  A teen and his friends, obsessed with online fighting and flying simulators discover that, infact, the government has been using these games to train the population to fight back when the alien invasion occurs.

I loved reading the set up of Armada.  It was as if Cline had read my mind!

And then it got weird.


Ready Player One was a hit for the obscure video game references, quotes from quirky movies and over all appreciation of all things geek in the 80's.  Armada awkwardly tries to recreate that magic but it comes off as forced and uncomfortable.  I half expected one of the characters to mention or quote Ready Player One in the book.

As with many books I look forward to the plot starts strong, then veers off for no apparent reason, adding a quasi love interest smack in the middle of the giant reveal about the truth of aliens as well as prolonged discussions between characters that lends nothing to their development or the story, but simply to add more cool 80's quotes and references.

While the 80's bits were forced, there are new ones in Armada, especially for me the Activision patches you could earn by sending in a polaroid of your high score.  I earned one for Pitfall but didn't keep it.  One of the characters in Armada has a whole jacket full of them.

The "reboot" concept for Last Starfighter.  Cline does give credit where do as the main character even mentions that his situation is a lot like one of his favorite movies, but...well...

The second half of the book.  A well considered plot with many injects that could mean something later turned out to be well conceived but never used.  Perhaps I'm used to reading books that use injects to resolve conflict later, this one disappointed.

This book also had what I call a "knock knock" ending, which means it felt like the author had the publisher at their door knocking and asking "Is it finished yet? You have 5 minutes!"

There is a ton of good fiction out there and sometimes an amazing work by one author is drowned out by another.  Sometimes the new guy has a hit (Ready Player One) and sometimes the follow up doesn't quite live up to expectations.  I wasn't expecting a sequel to a book I enjoyed more than most in the last decade, but I wanted something new and exciting from someone I knew could deliver.

As much grief as it appears I give Armada it was an enjoyable read and I hope it is adapted into a sequel to The Last Starfighter.  Just call me for a new ending, will ya?

You can find more book reviews and recommendations on my Reading List Page HERE.