Book Review: Armada

Armada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing on July 14th 2015
Pages: 368

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.


Armada was easily my most anticipated read this year and when I saw that Ernest Cline was coming to Anderson’s Bookshop for a signing, I couldn’t resist pre-ordering a copy and reading it before I met him. Since Ready Player One has been one of my top favorite books, I dove into this one without hesitation. Zack is a troubled teenager who loses himself in a game called Armada, an MMO flight simulator that has you pitted against an alien race. When Zack sees one of the alien aircrafts near his school, he knows that he must be losing his mind. What he doesn’t know is that he’s about to become of the many people that will fight to save Earth and Armada has been preparing him for this day.

Zack is a character who feels real. His father passed away when he was just a small child, leaving him alone with his mother who works long shifts. He has a temper that gets him into trouble at school and he has an obsession with learning more about his father. In fact, he obsesses a bit over every bit of information he has about him and even goes as far as watching his father’s old movies and even wearing a jacket that his father wore as a teenager. I really liked Zack who was just enough nerd but with more edge and a more realistic feel of how teenagers act these days. I’m glad there weren’t a lot of cliche moments and he was a bit more of a badass than most geeks are.

I love that Ernest features strong female characters. Zack’s mother is described as “the kind of single mom who would strap on heavy artillery and mow down killer cyborgs, if that was what it took to protect her offspring.” I loved that part and it shows how much Zack respects and loves his mom. The love interest that Zack meets later is named Lex and she’s a cool girl who ends up haranguing him into dates and not vice versa. She’s pretty badass and saves his ass once or twice during the book as well.

And the plot, I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say I loved the twists and turns and the somewhat conspiratorial nature of Armada. I felt like I was along for the ride of a lifetime and loved every second of this book. I think Cline has spoiled me and I need him to write me more books.. now!!


Read this book, just do it already!

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