Armada – Ernest Cline

I wanted to love and adore this book having thoroughly enjoyed Ready Player One, like so many others. Unfortunately it was not to be. By no means is this one of the worst books I have ever read and it was a consistent offering by Cline. 

Initially, I did wonder if Ready Player One had managed to use up most of the commonly known “nerdy” pop culture references as many seem to blow over my mind. I turned to my partner on some and even he found a few to be indepth references. Perhaps, however, this was Cline’s intention to have “Easter eggs” for the more die hard readers to find. 

Nevertheless, while the book started strong causing me to literally laugh out loud it soon turned rather bland, predictable and unnecessary. I am often willing to forgive an author for some plot holes as artistic license but when the storyline is effectively criticising other texts for their plot holes it is a lot harder to swallow. I found myself putting the book under hard scrutinity and in almost every battle scene was left tutting at the “ah that’s convenient they know how to do that or that other person didn’t do that”. I feel that Cline knew his beginning and end goal and meandered slowly there. 

I did not relate to any particular character nor did I like Zack Lightman the protagonist. Characters who could have played more of a role and added depth like Ray, Zack’s replacement father figure, disappear early on in the book rather abprutply and are then briefly featured later as the book ties itself up in the final few pages. Plus, the novel relies heavily on cliche relationships, particularly with Zack’s arch enemy bully who easily enrages him over his father’s death, and Zack’s love interest is the most unbelievably convenient character in the whole book. Bear in mind that 3/4 of the book takes place over less than a day, Zack has to meet and grab the affection of this apparently sexy with secret agent like computer abilities within this restrictive time frame. Thankfully, in Cline’s reputation of the world Zack can successfully achieve this mission within five minutes of meeting her. True love, eh? 

Another big issue of the book is predictably the ending. While there is a twist at the end that did excite me, it’s soon over and we’re back to substantial implausibility. The potential for the big reveal is huge, but Cline decides to leave many questions unanswered and to the reader’s discretion. Often this can a great way to end a novel, but in this instance Cline has missed a serious chance to show off his sci-fi literary prowess. I feel if there was a fourth part to the novel this would likely be the most gripping section of the book. 

Maybe this is purely due to pressure from those above him, urging him to capitalise on the success of Ready Player One and get his new book out while the buzz is still fresh. With a film due out later in the year, I cannot help but feel that Armada was written with adaptation into a screenplay in mind. Sound and music are regularly used to provide more depth to a scene, and direct references of songs in a novel is not something I often see. If I do it is maybe once in the book trying to establish a romantic scene or the coolness of a location or character, but in Armada, along with the onslaught of paragraphs dedicated to the dance of the drones it is clear that these are directions for any future director who takes on the project of transferring Armada to the big screen. 

The book is worth a read if you are a bit of a gamer nerd and enjoy action novels. The dystopian allure of Ready Player One is non existent here, with the book taking on a more simplistic childlike approach to society. Again, perhaps that was Cline’s intention; to bring a little bit of the reader’s internal child out of them. 

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