Book review: Armada by Ernest Cline


Ernest Cline

Genre: Science-fiction
368 pages

Audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton

Published July 14th 2015
by Crown Publishing

This book counts for the following Reading Challenge:



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If you often come around this blog, you can see I rarely read and review science-fiction. The fact is, I’m super choosy and will only real the GREAT stuff – I got recently caught into reading some of a lesser quality. It won’t happen again, I promise you.
SO, when I heard Ernest Cline had a book coming out, I stalked my library catalog, and as soon as it was listed as on purchase, I requested it, blindly, without even reading the sypnosis.
Because you know what? Once you have read Ready Player One (to this day it is still the best audiobook I have listened to, E.V.E.R.), you know this is the best of the best. So on release day, a copy of Armada was ready for me at my library. And my blind love as rewarded, see how…

Zack is just two months away from his high school graduation.
School is not his thing. His thing is videogames, big time. He’s actually been top world player #6 for years in Armada, his favorite videogame. So at school he’s plain bored. One day, as he stares through the classroom window, in his tiny city of Beaverton, Oregon, he spots a flying saucer. Strange in itself, but even more so when he realizes that it is ” a Sobrukai* Glaive, one of the fighter ships piloted by the alien bad guys in Armada.” (p.5).
Note: In chapter 7, there’s the cool explanation of the name Sobrukai!

Since kindergarten, Zack has also been waiting for special to happen. Plus his own dad Xavier, also obsessed with videogames, died at 19 in a strange incident, and in the diary he left, he seemed to show signs of schizophrenia. So seeing this weird thing through the window, Zack tries to ignore it and thinks this is just hallucination. Maybe he is just becoming like his dad who “lost the ability to differentiate between videogames and reality”? (p.5).
But next morning, an Armada ship lands in front of his school: an Earth Defense Alliance shuttle, for all to see. Out of it come three guys, one being none other than Ray, Zack’s boss at the videogame store where Zack works after school. He calls Zack by name, and takes him on board… Where? Why? I can only tel you Zack will meet all kinds of interesting people for a very special mission. Time for you to grab the book.

The novel is so much fun. It is packed with adventure and also tons of references to scifi novels, movies, and videogames. It is also about some deeper family issues.
I really enjoyed a lot how the book highlights the thin line between fiction and reality, in videogames and otherwise. The story is built in such a way that you can’t but wonder many times how much of it is just pure fiction, or if indeed some of it could be true. Really, are videogames just for plain entertainment? Or could they have another special purpose, hidden from you? I invite you to read the book and tell me what you think.

I also liked Zack’s hesitation at the end of the book. His final decision can only announce a sequel. I’ll be waiting for it. In the meantime, I plan to listen now to the book,  read like Ready Player One by the awesome Wil Wheaton. NB: I very very rarely read the same book twice, in two different formats.

ADDED ON 11/28/2018:
Funny enough, apparently when I read this book in 2015, I was aware that Wil Wheaton had narrated it. And then I forgot.
Then Ready Player One was made into a movie. I didn’t think I would watch it, for fear of being too disappointed compared to the book. But some review must have convinced me. The movie was actually wonderfully made.
And then I thought of Armada and realized, like a new discovery, that Wheaton had narrated it. So I listened to it. As said above, I very rarely revisit a book, but I’m glad I did. Wheaton’s narration was superb, almost as awesome as in Ready Player One.  I really enjoy meeting the characters again. There should definitely be a sequel to this!
Note to self: never again read a book by Ernest Cline, ALWAYS listen to it, if of course it’s narrated by Wheaton. What a team!

VERDICT: Science-fiction at its best in a page turner packed with references to scifi in literature and pop culture. And what if this were actually true? You will now always wonder when you hear about a videogame.


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.
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


has worked as a short-order cook,
fish gutter, plasma donor,
elitist video store clerk, and tech support drone.
His primary occupation, however,
has always been geeking out,
and he eventually threw aside those other promising career paths
to express his love of pop culture full-time as a spoken word artist and screenwriter.
His 2009 film Fanboys, much to his surprise, became a cult phenomenon.
These days Ernie lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, their daughter,
and a large collection of classic video games.







7 thoughts on “Book review: Armada by Ernest Cline

  1. Pingback: 2015 New Release Challenge | Words And Peace

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