Book Review | Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline

Published by Crown Publishing on July 14, 2015

Genres: Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction

Format: Hard Cover

Pages: 349

Source: Blogging for Books

Goodreads: ★ 1/2

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.


I excitedly received a copy of Armada by Ernest Cline for review from the website Blogging for Books. I requested it after hearing so many amazing things about his famous work Ready Player One, and dove in without knowing anything about it whatsoever. Armada follows teenager Zack Lightman and begins when Zack sees a UFO outside his high school’s window while in math class one day. Seeing a UFO would be disturbing in and of itself, but this particular ship is from the video game he plays called Armada. Zack passes it off as a hallucination, and goes about his video-game filled life.

I was immediately drawn into Armada because of Cline’s relaxed writing style. Zack narrates the story in first-person, and his voice is easy to follow. I absolutely loved the beginning of this book. While I’m not into video games, I was really intrigued with the entire world of the gamer. I liked learning more about Armada and Terra Firma, the two games featured in the story, and it was cool to follow Zack and his friends while they played the games, too.

What truly drew me in, however, was the conspiracy theory! Zack’s father died when Zack was just a baby, and he left behind a lot of his possessions. One of those is a notebook in which he wonders if video games are created by the government in order to train an army without anyone knowing. I was hooked! I wanted this theory to be proven true, and had to keep reading to find out whether it would be.

Unfortunately, the story tapers off in the middle, and about one-third of the way through Armada I got very bored. I had to struggle to continue on despite really liking Zack and the other characters in the novel. However, I’m really glad I stuck through to the end, because the finale is excellent. I love the somewhat unsettling and open-ended conclusion. I also loved the discussion on humanity that Cline brings up to the readers.

Overall, I found Armada to be a fun read, and one that was unique to me as someone who doesn’t know a lot about video game culture. I did find the middle section of the book to drag a lot, and I didn’t like that Cline included too many layers of truths and falsities. In fact, to truly understand the intricately woven web of truths and lies, I would have to graph out the novel. Finally, Armada contains multiple typographical errors and other copyediting mistakes.

I recommend Armada if you are looking for a book centered on video games, aliens, or 1980s pop culture. If you are a big fan of Ready Player One, perhaps go into this book with low expectations. I look forward to reading Ready Player One for the first time, because I know it is so praised and can only top Armada.


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