It’s ironic that two highly anticipated second novels hit shelves on the same Tuesday — one by Harper Lee and one by Ernest Cline.
Having read both, I’d argue that Cline’s fans came out better than Lee’s. For one thing, Cline intended to publish Armada all along. For another, the book is just a lot more fun to read than Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Part of that could be that Armada is a completely separate novel from Ready Player One so even if it was terrible, it wouldn’t necessarily be seen as tarnishing the legacy of the original.
Armada is Cline’s take on the 80’s classic The Last Starfighter with a bit of Ender’s Game thrown in there for good measure. Like Ready Player One, Cline is quick to acknowledge and embrace his inspirations in pop culture. Armada is more steeped in the world of video-gaming, but even if you’re not an avid gamer, this one is still a lot of fun.
Zack Lightman is very good at video-games. He’s in the top ten of the game Armada, though he’s not quite certain if and how he can turn that into a career. That is until one day with Zach believes he’s losing his grip on reality and he sees an honest to goodness space ship from the game outside the window of his high school.
Turns out the game is more than just a game and Zach and his fellow players have been training for their chance to step up and defend Earth from alien invasion. Along the way, Zack will find out some revelations about his family and his friends and maybe, just maybe fall in love.
Coming on the expectations of Ready Player One, Armada could have been a huge disappointment. But Cline took time to craft this one, making it fun, readable and crammed full of some many pop culture references that I’m sure I missed a few. The book is fun, but not quite on the same out of left field way that Ready Player One was. But it’s still a pleasant, enjoyable read that is a lot of fun and will keep you entertained.
I just hope that Cline won’t make us wait as long this time for this next book.