Zack Lightman is busy daydreaming in class when a spaceship appears outside the window. It is a spaceship that looks exactly like the ones in his favourite video game. Is he losing his mind or is something else at play here? Are aliens really making contact with us? And what does his long-dead father have to do with it all?
Armada is Ernest Cline’s second book after Ready Player One, the critically acclaimed novel that’s currently being made into a film. Like in RPO, Cline displays his love for the 80s, video games and films in particular. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s not Shakespeare, but that’s not why you’re reading this book anyway. You’re reading it because you want to take a break from the real world. It’s not going to make you stay up at night thinking deep thoughts or give you insights about how to solve global warming but it might make you chuckle at the witty dialogue between the main character and his friends.
If there is anything detracting from the overall fun of this book it is the fight/action sequences. This is a question of personal taste, of course. I don’t enjoy said sequences in general (which is why I avoid action films). Thankfully they are short enough to keep my attention. And, besides, how could a book about an alien invasion not involve fight sequences?
When an author pays homage to a whole genre, like Ernest Cline is so obviously doing, it is easy to fall into the trap of almost plagiarising other people’s work. The book I was most reminded of while reading Armada (especially the first half) was Ender’s game. Luckily for me the resemblances were outweighed by the differences, because Ender’s game was not a book I liked at all. Cline draws his inspiration from many other works and he’s not shy about namedropping some of them in the book itself: Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey etc. Of course, having read both of his books, one has to wonder if throwing pop-culture references around at least once every page are the only trick Cline has up his sleeve, but it is easy to get caught up in his fanboy enthusiasm.
All in all, this was a quick read. Empty calories but still enjoyable.