Armada by Ernest Cline (2015) JM’s book review

Armada by Ernest Cline 3

Pretty Good Follow Up!
“About damn time!” That’s the first thing I thought when the announcement of Ernest Cline’s Armada first hit the blogosphere. Released FOUR YEARS after the cult classic, Ready Player One, Armada did not disappoint; maybe not fully fulfill, but not disappoint.

Cline lays out the plot from the onset: a high school kid named Zack Lightman; whose dad passed away when he was a baby; enters into a Will Smith, Independence Day-esque battle with extraterrestrials with his ethnically and racially diverse band of nerd brothers and sisters. Like Ready Player One, this work is full of 80s pop culture references. Unlike the debut novel, the references in Armada are not as skillfully woven into the story. In many ways, the references are almost bumper-stickered onto the plot. The references primarily appear in dialogue (Lightman’s mom mentions playing World of Warcraft, his chums argue their weapon preferences between Thor’s Mjolnir or Bilbo’s Sting) and in the random places (Lightman’s gaming music playlist is composed of all 80s hits, his love interest’s tattoo of Tankgirl).

Armada has received negative reviews from the gaming community (for its shallowness of the characters and lack of depth in the description of the gaming community itself) and literary critics (for the plethora of 80s references that appear trite, almost alienating anyone born post 1990). Having a toe in both communities, I enjoyed the book. As a matter of fact, I have every intention on seeing the movie whenever it’s made (the rights were sold in 2012).


On my title scale (World Champ – Jobber) I give Armada the United States Championship.
The predictable plot and lack of fluidity with the 80s pop culture references made the book a chore to get through in the beginning, and to finish with the proverbial “bang” was unfulfilling. With those two elements corrected, this would have been an Intercontinental Champion easy.

I most certainly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Cline and his work. I also recommend this to anyone who enjoys anything 80s. It’s a fun ride, even if it’s a familiar one.

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