Book Review: Armada – Ernest Cline

Is this an amazingly fun book?  Yes.  The references make my inner sci-fi nerd happy. I enjoyed every single reference I caught.  I’m not ashamed to say I’m sure I missed some.  I kept waiting for Cline’s main character Zack Lightman to figure them out.  He didn’t disappoint, Lightman Jr.  is no dummy.  His mother didn’t suffer a fool.  She’s a gamer herself.  That said, is it original and going to go down in literary history?  Probably not.  Is the question of it being similar to ‘The Last Starfighter’ valid?  Yes.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  In fact any person who enjoys sci-fi or gaming will find reading this time well spent and smile.  I did say or.  I’m not a gamer.  I know the basics but this isn’t just for sci-fi or gamer fans.  It’s for both and even people who aren’t well versed in the 1980’s.   This is fun.  There will be haters out there who expect more, who will say they could have written it, there will even be people who say Cline is only rehashing what made him great.  I couldn’t care less.  I loved this book and Will Wheaton’s narration.  Thank you, Cline, thank you very much.

Zack Lightman is the son of a gamer, actually two gamers.  His dad died when he was young and he knows little about him from personal experience.  He did, however, get to dig though the ridiculous amount of memorabilia his mom kept.  This eighteen year-old kid works at a Game store, and plays ‘Armada’ every minute he can.  The kid lives in the past.  He knows everything about the eighties movies and games his dad liked.  It’s an obsession.  He wears his dads clothes.  You could say there is an unhealthy attachment to a dad he never knew.  He knows it’s a problem, but he didn’t realize how big of a problem until he starts seeing things that can’t possibly be true.  When he’s at school he sees aircraft flying through the sky from ‘Armada’.  He looks around his class to see if anyone else see’s what he’s seeing.  They don’t.  Is it real or is he going crazy?  He read his dad’s journal.  Is he going insane like his dad?  Is he destined to be a conspiracy nut?

No, I’m not going to tell you.  You are going to read the book and you’d hate me if I told you.  If you want the cheat codes read someone else’s review.

I listened to Will Wheaton’s narration.  If you listened to ‘Ready Player One’ you know he’s skilled.  He handles multiple characters with ease, but the best part of his narration is that he is in tune with Cline’s humor.  I didn’t read it.  I can’t say if I would have enjoyed it more or less if I didn’t have Wheaton’s interpretation.  I can say there are books where a narrator adds to the enjoyability of the book.  I believe this is one.

There are many things that make this book good; the father son theme, the possibility for a kid who looked like he was throwing his life away making good, the friendships, and the references.  Oh, the references… They are so good.  Reading the book you will feel the likeness to many books/movies/games; ‘The Last Starfighter,’ ‘Contact,’ and ‘Ender’s Game’ to name a few.  What makes it clear he’s not plagiarizing anyone is Cline not only recognizes them but honors them.  He knows what he’s doing.  He’s not trying to take credit for the original ideas.  He wants you to figure it out.  He loves these cultural icons as much as anyone.

My advice is to read it/listen to it.  Don’t take anything too seriously.  Start the book recognizing it is meant to be fun.  Turn off your inner critic and indulge.


About Steph

As C. S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I am an indiscriminate reader. I can find a way to enjoy almost all books. I find they are like people – you can find something endearing in almost every one of them. I love to write reviews. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful. View all posts by Steph

23 responses to “Book Review: Armada – Ernest Cline

  • fromcouchtomoon

    Wil Wheaton is basically the only reason I would watch Star Trek:TNG with my dad when I was a preteen. (A small crush
    crush.) Who knew he would grow up to be such a nerd god. I haven’t run into any of his book narrations yet, but I bet they are fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph

      Try Ready Player One or this one but he’s best known for Ready Player One. I, for one, when I was a kid I would never have thought Wheaton would have nerd god status. I remember liking him on Next Generation, and then he was a joke. What a come back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Steph

      Why when I went to your site did it say it was no longer on WordPress? Is it a mistake or should I be finding you elsewhere


      • fromcouchtomoon

        It does that sometimes. WordPress has been acting funny for me tonight. Or maybe you tried “fromcouchtomoon,” but it’s actually just “couchtomoon.”


      • Steph

        I tried to follow your link that came up under likes but it is showing as fromcouchtomoon, not sure why, but did the same thing on another blog I like. Maybe it’s just finicky tonight. I’m just glad your not going anywhere

        Liked by 1 person

  • Tammy

    I really had fun with this as well. Yes, I liked RPO a little better, but Armada is great because it pokes fun at all the tropes and references. I need to listen to the audio next, because I’m a huge Will Wheaton fan!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • By Hook Or By Book ~ Book Reviews, News, & Other Stuff

    I feel terrible, but I wound up returning my library copy when I was only half way through. I must have been in a mood.😕 I’ll try it again one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Lisa

    Great review! Thanks so much for talking about what you enjoyed about this book. So far, most of the reviews I’ve seen have been fairly negative, and I’m glad to read about a non-gamer enjoying it! Plus, Wil Wheaton as narrator is a huge plus for me, so I think I’ll go the audio route. Quick question — if I haven’t read Ready Player One yet, should I read/listen to that one first?

    Liked by 1 person

  • MojoFiction

    I have to admit I’m one of those people who liked Ready Player One, but found the book description for Armada lacking (thematically too similar to the first book). Your review is enthusiastic enough to make me wonder if I should check it out anyway (I did spend some time in the 80’s). This is why I’ve been asking all the world’s book reviewers to stop reviewing books that I’m on the fence about. It just confuses me. So far, no reviewers have agreed….

    Liked by 2 people

  • DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    With how much people liked RPO and how anticipated his next book was, I thought it was almost inevitable that Armada would suffer simply because some people would be comparing it directly to RPO.

    I haven’t read RPO, but from the reviews I read, this seems like a fun book! Aside from “but it’s not as good as RPO”, not flaws in any reviews really stood out to me. I mean, since when a story that’s “only” fun, not a good book?

    Liked by 1 person

  • Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Glad to hear that a non-gamer enjoyed this one just as much. As I was reading it I just knew it was going to be a niche book, though that said I thought some of the negative reviews were a bit harsh especially those comparing it to RPO. The criticisms that it is not as “good” or complex as RPO are all valid, though I don’t think Cline wrote Armda to be a “better book”, he just wrote it to have fun and for his readers to also have fun with it as well. In that, I thought he succeeded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph

      I agree he succeeded. It’s enjoyable. I was looking at reviews and I understand that if you had geared yourself up for it to be RPO you would be disappointed but even with RPO Cline was about having a good time. I’m glad you enjoyed it too.


  • erinthedreamer

    I loved Ready Player One but just did not enjoy this one as much. I’ve got a review scheduled for later that goes into more detail, but ultimately this book didn’t do it for me. Oh well. Glad you liked it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Molly Mortensen

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of The Last Starfighter when I heard of this book. My sister really liked Ready Player One. I should really read it one of these days. I’ll have to tell her she’ll like this one too.

    Liked by 1 person

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