Cline’s ‘Armada’ is an out of this world read

Aliens came from all sides of the page, vividly blowing up in a flurry of descriptions, and the mastermind behind it all is author Ernest Cline. This is Armada, Cline’s follow-up to critically acclaimed science fiction novel Ready Player One.  The book focuses on a high school student, Zack Lightman, fighting off aliens from his favorite video game, conveniently called Armada, invading the real world. He comes to question how real everything has been over the years, if his video game hobby has more to it than meets the eye as he tries to unravel the mystery of what is happening behind the scenes, and how much of what he knows has been planned from the start.

Lightman is born fatherless and with more than a handful of mental problems. Like most of Cline’s characters, Lightman is a socially inept nerd who excels at gaming in all forms. The game that he plays better than all others is “Armada”, a virtual reality dog fighting simulator in space where he just so happens to be one of the top 10 players in the world. Cline once again masterfully intertwines humor into his action and important scenes while still keeping the pace and descriptive action of what is happening.  The book starts off setting some background and introducing a few important characters like Ray, a pseudo father of Zack who also doubles as his boss at work, as well as some fun side characters. However, it quickly picks up the pace as the main storyline progresses and becomes a very fun read.

The story quickly grabs the reader so well that they’re halfway through the book without realizing it. This brings up another one of the geniuses of Cline’s writing: it’s fun. His characters are all humorous geeks and nerds, besides the big cliche baddie that stalks the story’s protagonist. The villains, on the other hand always stand out from each other, yet they always uphold to a classic sci-fi standard for the big baddies, whether that’s a cyberpunk dystopian businessman or a race of aliens here to “destroy all humanz.” Yeah, that Z is intentional.

However, as strong as this book is, it still has its flaws. For one, some characters’ relationships to each other are painfully similar to those in Cline’s Ready Player One. He’s good at writing the nerdy gaming hero, but both Ready Player one and Armada have similar main leads, like Lightman and Parzival. The characters accompanying  also share the same character style, as A3ch and Alexis Larkin are both charismatic and rebellious punks. Cline’s love for VR is also apparent, as two of his books heavily use it, Ready Player One’s entire story is almost entirely inside a VR universe, while Armada uses VR in its action-packed scenes.

The settings are also fun and exciting as Lightman explores them in his ventures to save the world. The scale of the scenes blows up rather fast, from a small town to interplanetary travels. On top of the setting being awesome, he also does a good job at describing it the first time a new area is reached and continues to do so as Lightman explores more and more.

All in all, Armada is another hit from Cline, gets spot on the mark for a fun sci-fi book. Despite a few problems I had with it I enjoyed reading it through and through. My final score, five out of five “Raising Cane’s” three piece chicken meals. I’d highly recommend giving this book a read if you’re a fan of science fiction and enjoy a good laugh