Sunday, August 2, 2015

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Zach Lightman is a dreamer. He has no plans for the future other than to get through the last few months of high school and graduate. The teenager lives a lackluster life of dull routine, hoping for an indescribable something to give his life meaning.  Then one day he sees a spaceship outside his classroom window. Next thing you know Zach is recruited by a mysterious global organization to protect Earth from an alien invasion. World governments have been secretly training soldiers by the use of video games that mimic actual battlefield technology. One of the games is called Armada, and Zach just happens to be a top player.

Armada starts out surprisingly slow, the action doesn’t ramp up until the last two thirds of the novel. Meanwhile, the story is crammed with cultural references and video-game speak. If you don’t like sci-fy or have at least a passing interest in gaming then this book will bore you to tears. For those of us who’ve frittered away too many hours watching cheesy TV or playing video games the book also has few surprises. The plot will feel eerily familiar as if different parts of sci-fy venues had been strung together. As I read, I mentally connected plot points from old favorite books, TV, and movies. Yup, this theme comes from Star Wars...this twist comes from a Stargate episode...this is Star Trek...this is The Last Starfighter. It was actually kind of fun tying all the pieces together. That’s not to say the book is completely derivative or a total waste of time. It has the same appeal as summer superhero movies. You already know what’s coming, but you buy the ticket and order extra butter on the popcorn anyway.

The weakest part of the book is the characterization. You’ve met all these types before in dozens of different books and shows. Everyone has a role to play and doesn’t deviate; the misunderstood hero, the gamer dudes, the hacker chick who is (guess what?) beautiful, tattooed, snarky and drops the f bomb at every opportunity. Wow, I’ve never seen any of them before. No, wait, that’s my inner snarky hacker chick speaking. Yeah, unfortunately I’ve met them all before and they’re not any more interesting the hundredth time around.

Anyone who is a fan of the sci-fy genre can see the ending coming for the entire final third of the book. For that point alone, I didn’t find it particularly satisfying. It’s also pretty obvious who will live and who will die. The conclusion hints at a sequel. Again, no surprise. So does every other summer blockbuster.

Is this a terrible book?  No, but it isn’t terrific, either. It falls somewhere in between. A pleasant way to waste a few hours, but not interesting enough to look forward to more of Zach Lightman’s adventures.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

No comments:

Post a Comment