Author: Ernest Cline

Book Review – Armada by Ernest Cline

Posted July 23, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 3 Comments

Book Review – Armada by Ernest ClineArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown on July 14th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Ready Player One


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.

Zack Lightman is a teenager obsessed with video games (but then again, what teenager these days isn’t?) His uniqueness comes from his obsession with 80s music, movies, and all things science fiction, but this is mostly because his dad was obsessed with those things and he died when Zack wasn’t even a year old. Buried in the personal effects he left behind, Zack discovers some of his journals which detail a possible government conspiracy where video games are actually a tool used to prepare people for a coming alien invasion. Zack thinks his dad was just a little loony towards the end but the harsh reality is his dad wasn’t too far off base with his theories. The end of the world is apparently coming and Zack and his video game buddies are the only ones properly trained to hopefully save the world.

After the success of Ready Player One, Armada could not come out soon enough. Per the summary, it still had the wonderful nerdiness we’ve come to expect from Clines and an interesting twist on video games and a fictional take on the importance in our culture. Yet in Armada, something special was distinctly missing. The complexities of the virtual world named OASIS that Cline created in Ready Player One was understandable, engaging, and tons of fun making you feel like you were along for the ride (even if you weren’t a bigger gamer like me.) In Armada, too much time was spent on the page count before the action actual began (100+ pages) as well as the details of the actions within the game that became inexplicably harder to understand as we got deeper in. The details of navigation (they were primarily flying drones) were given in place of actual action and it was hard to get a feel of things despite the fact the descriptions should have been able to put you smack dab in the driver seat. Maybe because RPO took place in a dystopian future made the concept easier to swallow, or maybe this is just an unfortunate sophomore slump.

The Last Starfight and Ender’s Game (or of course the book) both touch on the same subject: master video gamers are enlisted to save the world from invading aliens. The (slight) difference is the overabundance of pop culture references on just about every single page of this tale and how this pop culture knowledge is also key to helping to combat the invasion. The fact that RPO also focused on pop culture references worked better since the world they currently lived in left much to be desired. Those characters obsession with this particular section in time was viewed as a form of escapism more than anything. Zack Lightman is an 18-year-old kid in present-day who listens to Rush and apparently doesn’t watch any movie that wasn’t released in the 80s. Highly unlikely, even if this obsession is fueled by a father he never met. The whole story essentially felt like fan-fiction written by a gamer who daydreams how his video games skills will one day pay the bills. Or save the world in this case.

At this point, I get it. Cline loves the 80s. The music, the movies, and all the science fiction. If he keeps up the trend of going overboard with the 80s pop culture references in his next novel, I think he’d be better off actually setting the story in the 80s. But first and foremost, I’d like to see him come up with something new and original instead of playing off the same dated sci-fi tropes.



Early Review – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Posted August 8, 2011 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2011 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown on August 16, 2011
Pages: 384
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Also by this author: Armada


Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued but I wasn’t running to read it because I don’t think I was expecting a whole lot out of this. Once I started reading it though, I realized how fascinating it was and how I certainly did not expect it to be as intricate as it was. Wow. Talk about world building.

The summary of the book to me sounded like a cross between the Tron concept (of people being able to insert themselves into video games) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (where the purpose was to find the golden ticket and compete against the others to win the big prize). But the ‘quest’ in RPO was waaaaay better than Willy Wonka could ever dream of being.

The complexities of the virtual world named OASIS that Ernest Cline created in Ready Player One are astounding. It was so elaborate yet easily understandable and also completely believable. Set in the year 2044, OASIS has become a sanctuary for humans to escape to allowing them to be whoever and whatever they choose. Considering how destitute the real world is, many people spend almost their entire lives plugged into the OASIS.

The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, dedicated his life to his creation. When he dies, he leaves everything he owns including the mass worth he’s accumulated over his lifetime to the single individual who is able to solve the puzzles and acquire the ‘egg’. Sounds easy? A lot of people thought so and many proceeded to dedicate their lives to finding it. Years later no one has been able to decipher any of the clues James Halliday left behind. Wade is the first person to figure out the puzzle and obtain the first key and this is his story.

This sets off a wild chain of events that totally makes you strap on your gear and go on your own quest. I loved the characters and the relationship that they shared with one another. I loved how the author’s writing style had the ability to completely suck you in to the story and almost made you feel like you had your own avatar in the OASIS. I loved everything about this story.

This is highly recommended for video game lovers, lovers of anything 80’s, and anyone who’s looking for a highly enjoyable book!

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