Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: "Armada" by Ernest Cline

"Ever since the first day of kindergarten, I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education. I had spent hundreds of hours gazing out at the calm, conquered suburban landscape surrounding my school, silently yearning for the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse, a freak accident that would give me super powers, or perhaps the sudden appearance of a band of time-traveling kleptomaniac dwarves."

Even though Zack Lightman wants his life to be more exciting, he definitely isn't ready for what's about to happen. Daydreaming one day in his high school class, he looks out to see what he thinks is an alien spaceship from Armada, his favorite video game. But given that he spends hours and hours playing the game with his friends, conducting "missions" on behalf of the so-called Earth Defense Alliance, and has risen to become one of the top 10 players of the game in the world, he starts to wonder if he's hallucinating, and maybe he should step back from the game a little bit.

And then the unthinkable happens. A space vehicle arrives at his high school and whisks Zack away to a top-secret location, where he learns that the planet really is in trouble, and is about to be attacked by the aliens he has always believed were fictional. But it's going to take more than soldiers to defend the planet—it's going to take the talents of skilled gamers like Zack from all over the world to save the fate of humanity. Is life imitating fiction, or has fiction been imitating life all this time?

Ernest Cline's first book, Ready Player One was pretty fantastic, and it was one of the best books I read in 2011, so I've been eagerly anticipating Cline's follow-up. Much like that book, Armada is chock full of references to 80s and 90s science fiction movies, video games, and pop culture. (It pains me to admit I had to Google some of those references. Don't judge.)

I thought this was a fun read, with a lot of heart and some surprising bursts of emotion. It really did feel at times like watching a big adventure movie like Independence Day—I felt exhilarated at times, at times I wondered what would happen, and I even felt myself tearing up a time or two. The plot took a while to really get traction, however, and there are places where there was a little too much detail that went over my head. But in the end, I love the way Cline writes, and I enjoyed this book, and look forward to seeing what's next for him...if there's another adventure to be a part of, count me in.

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