Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was looking forward to this novel, with marked anticipation. I pre-ordered this sucker and waited patiently until it appeared, magically, on my Kindle Paperwhite.
I didn't like it.
I mean, it was okay. An average novel that will probably make a really exciting movie. Summer movie goers will pile into the theaters, buckets of popcorn and gallons of soda in hand. The explosions will be awesome. But in the end this will be a Transformers movie and not an Inception movie.
Let me explain.
Ready Player One, Clines first novel, was a masterpiece. He built this world, a world unlike anything we'd ever seen. The characters were deep and we got to know them. Because I was invested in those characters, I cared what happened to them. They seemed real to me. I did not want Ready Player One to end. After it did end, I longed for the day when I could read more of Cline's pop culture ridden prose.
So, now, let me detail how Armada fails:
1) I'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE. This setting, this idea, this plot is nothing new. We have seen this story done several times before and by much more accomplished writers. I mean Cline even references the stories that come to my mind when someone says, "Kid plays video games to control spaceships to destroy aliens," or "Kid becomes involved in space defense organization and has to defend his home planet from aliens." I knew what was going to happen in Armada because I had read the story before. There were several times while I was reading that I would stop and predict what would happen and sure enough it all came true. I want original story telling. It is fine if you recycle a previously used story, almost everyone does, they kinda have to. But, if you are going to recycle, at least make it into something different than it was before.
2) I DIDN'T CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. I can't even remember some of the character's names and I finished the book a day ago. That's not good. Lightman? Lifeman? Something like that? So, look, this novel is short. There is very little set up at the beginning of the novel. Cline wastes no time getting us into the action, but he does this to the detriment of his characters. I don't care if Lightman dies because I haven't spent enough time with the guy. That is why George R.R. Martin's books/T.V. shows cause such extreme reactions in people. I mean I threw A Game of Thrones across the room when one particular scene happened, I was that angry. This happens because we've spent significant amounts of time with the characters, we know them, we like them, we may even "love" them, and we care what happens to them. But not in Armada. We've got to get to the action because we have movie rights to sell, screw the characters. The people came for the aliens anyway.
3) THE ADULTS DIDN'T ACT LIKE ADULTS. I understand what Cline was trying to do with this one. The adults (especially the ones within the Defense Armada, the ones on the Moon Base) act like teenagers. Geeky, videogame teenagers. Now, Cline was trying to show that these gentlemen were all huge nerds, and have been stuck on the moon for a long time, and they are awkward, but it was just too much. You have a "fish out of water" scenario happening with the main character. He doesn't know what is happening and neither do we. But then in most well-written stories a "wise old man" appears and explains things to us, maybe trains the "fish out of water" character. But in this case the adults don't have any of the answers either and they act just like the kids. I mean they have theories as to why things are the way they are, but ultimately they don't really know. It made it very difficult to believe. I would figure that these men would grow up, just a little, during their decade or so on the moon. I mean they are in a stinking military organization, I would think some mode of decorum would be trained into them.
4) Finally, THE RESOLUTION WAS RUSHED. I got to the last page and said, "that's it?" Well, yep, that's all. There was not enough time spend in peril for me to care. Everything was rushed.
Like I said, this will make a good, not great, action sci-fi movie and reads like a movie script. I hope it makes Cline a bunch of money so he can take the time to craft a truly wonderful book in the ilk of Ready Player One. We have all seen that Cline can do it, he just needs to do it again. Sophomore effort, not that great.
Overall: meh, average. Not up to par.
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