I expected something more original...
I was really excited to read Armada since I read some months ago Ready Player One and I enjoyed A LOT that other book.
So, reading the next novel by Ernest Cline was a obvious decision.
I was aware of the basic premise, and I really hoped to read something fresh and original with the same sense of witty and humor found on Ready Player One, but while I can’t deny that Armada contains witty and humor, I didn’t find it fresh or original.
Any big reason? ...
...some book that you may heard about (not matter if you have read it or not)...
Cline didn’t do any attempt (that it could be pointless and illogical) to hide the connection to the mentioned novel, in fact in the “reality” of the book, Ender’s Game exists as the same known sci-fi novel than in “our” reality.
But, one thing is aknowledge the novel and other is trying to make a “readers’ friendly” version of that novel. Ender’s Game is a complex book, you love it or hate it, very rarely you are in the middle about it (where to be fair, I think that I am in the middle). There are many reasons why readers hate the book, some illogical like the personal opinions of the author about polemic topics (if I’d worry about personal thinking about authors, actors, musicians, etc… Very likely I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a lot of good books, movies, tv series and music albums). I prefer a shitty person but good writer than a good person but shitty writer. (Yes, I got that from the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars).
Anyway, there are other issues on the actual book like the age of the main character in contrast with his too mature attitude or violent actions. But, at least it was original.
Honestly, I don’t think the same about Armada.
And if some of you (my fellow geeks) are thinking about the movie The Last Starfighter, don’t worry, Cline mentions that film too...
...of course he has to mention it!!! He’s shamelessly merging Ender’s Game (book) with The Last Starfighter (movie) as being any able to avoid mention those. But, being open to mention the awareness of those projects and excusing them as “being part of a bigger plan” to explain why Armada is so much like those previous stories, it isn’t a satisfactory scenario to justify the lack of originality in this novel.
On the narrative, there is even a large and meticulous list of all works about alien invasions, military sci-fi and books/movies about using civilians (usually teenagers) in video game simulations to train them for real military duties. Where in that, I was amazed that (taking in account how extensive the list is) it wasn’t mentioned the film “Toys” (1992) with Robin Williams. Yes, the movie is pretty lame, but hey! Its general story makes a bullseye on about what’s about the main topic on the novel as to be picky about it and not mentioning it. (The sci-fi list covers until 1999, so there is no reason why to skip that movie since it fits in that “big conspiration theory” like a glove).
Another curious thing is that Zack Lightman, the main character, has a history of previous violence and even a bully is afraid of him. The bullies are afraid of the geeks?! What kind of insane world is that one?! Hehehe.
I didn’t see the point of portraiting Zack Lightman with a past of violence. I know many gamers whom they don’t kill a fly in real world and they are insane killers in video games. It was like taking Ender Wiggin but instead of recruiting him as a small child and waiting until he is eighteen years old. While I understand the disliking of some readers of a child doing the kind of violence as Ender, at least that’s something to talk about, something polemic, any controversy is good for the general impact of a story... but a 18-years old man with a violent past? Mmh... Nope, no controversy there, sorry.
I won’t spoil the ending, don’t worry, I will only say that even the way as “the twist” in the story is managed, it isn’t that original, fresh or innovative. Basically it’s a kinda loose reverse way of The New Twilight Zone episode “A Small Talent for War” (that it was considered one of the best episodes of the revival TV series. It impacted me so much when I watched it, back then in 1986, that I still remember the basic storyline of the TV episode).
Hey! If you don’t want geeks (like me) to point out that they read/hear/watch a similar story before, then don’t do “geek stories”, since we (geeks) love to show off our geekness’ sapienza, totally worthless in the day-to-day real life, but fun to point out when something isn’t as original as others may think.
Wait a minute! 1986? The episode of The New Twilight Zone was aired in 1986??!
Ender's Game was published in 1986!!!
Dang! Forget 1985! This novel should be titled "1986 Strikes Back!"
GEEKNESS TOO MUCH
You may think that a geek (like me) will be in paradise in a novel like Armada where in almost every single paragraph, there are like between 2 and 6 pop culture geek references.
I don’t know, maybe I am not as geek as I think… who am I kidding? I am a dang geek! But, honestly, even I found irritating/excesive/unnecesary (pick your poison) to include such overwhelming ludicrous HUGE chunk of popular culture geek references in every single dang paragraph in the whole novel.
Did I understand the geek references?
Sure! I am a geek, duh!
However, unless I am in the middle of a “deep” discussion with fellow geek friends, I don’t think or speak out loud so many pop culture geek references in day-to-day situations. Believe it or not, if we (geeks) opted of not wearing a geek-related t-shirt, we (geeks) can mingle in the middle of non-geek masses and you (non-geek) won’t be able to indentify us...
Mmh... Of course, it helps too if we (geeks) opted to avoid laughing out loud in machiavellian style! In that way our camouflage is impeccable... Bwa...mmh...right, right...
But really, I am a geek and I don’t think or speak like Zack Lightman, and even I can’t believe that the most obsessive real life geek may think or speak as Zack Lightman does. Yes, I know, it’s a book and usually that kind of characters are archetypes intentionally exaggerated to construct epitome-like characters and in that way, being able to differentiate between different characters in a story and/or clearly pointing out the purpose of the character in the narrative. However, while in Ready Player One I felt that pop culture references were used in a proper way, with the right amount of it, here, in Armada, the author just lost control of it and the popular culture geek references just ran free crushing any chance of enjoying the reading experience.
In a smaller note, but relevant, I think that the novel takes a bit too much to engage, since after two compelling initial chapters, you get lost in over-detailing descriptions of video game sessions before reaching the point where the story begins to kick, provoking a “bump” in the first part of the book.
At the end, I felt not fair giving it at least a 3-stars rating, which it puts the novel in the safe positive side of the rating bar, but definitely I expected a lot more of this book, taking in account, Cline’s great job in Ready Player One. I don’t regret having read it, but I was looking for something more original and enjoyable and sadly it wasn’t the case.