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Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cover of Armada by Ernest Cline
3 Stars

Zack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Armada. He's always been afraid this would happen. Zack's father, Xavier, died in a work accident when Zack was an infant, leaving behind some journals that outline a vast government conspiracy to train civilians as soldiers for an upcoming struggle against extraterrestrials. Crazy, right? Zack was afraid he would lose his mind too. And now it appears that he has. Except that the next morning a futuristic ship lands on his school lawn and the men in black step out, calling his name and recruiting him for the battle to save the earth....

I didn't even realize Ernest Cline had published a new book until I saw Sheila over at Book Journey mention it. I knew I had to get my hands on the audio. I loved Cline's first book, Ready Player One, but didn't realize that Wil Wheaton narrated the audio version until after I'd read it in print. I wasn't going to miss out this time.

Wheaton's narration was everything I hoped it would be.

The book.... Well, my hopes were high. Cline knocked it out of the park with his debut novel. Armada was good but not great.

The world building just took way too long for me. I tuned out for long chunks of time during descriptions of the video game and the back story and past missions and unbeatable alien technology. That's not my thing.

Which leads into my other problem. I'm not a modern gamer. I'll at least mostly understand references to video games from the 80s and early 90s, and there's a decent chance that I've played them or at least watched my cousins or sister play them. I'm lost with today's games. I have no desire to join a vast online community of people talking smack to each other and playing war games. Totally not my thing. And I think that's the group this book is primarily going to appeal to.

I did like Zack and the other characters a lot. I was rooting for them all the way. I enjoyed their interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt real. Once I got through all the lead-up to the real story, I was hooked and I finished this audio book in record time.

I'm pretty happy with the resolution. There's definitely room for a sequel and, like Zack, I still have unanswered questions. Armada stands just fine on its own though.

Don't expect a repeat of the Ready Player One experience, but I still recommend it. As I said, I do think gamers will enjoy it more than the rest of us, but it's definitely a good book, especially in audio.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Check out my review of Ready Player One, Ernest Cline's first novel.

Find author Ernest Cline on his website, his blog, and Facebook.

Buy Armada at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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