Armada by Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: July 14, 2015

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.


armada cover jacket


A few years into the future, life is pretty normal. Zach Lightman is trying to get through high school without getting in trouble – he has a slight anger management problem. Zach has only his mother in his life – his father died when Zach was a baby. He has two best friends who he plays the game Armada with. This is Zach’s favorite game – he can play it for hours on end. Zach doesn’t know much about his dad, but his mom kept a lot of his dad’s belongings. Through some of his dad’s journals, Zach discovers that his dad was privy to conspiracy theories. One of these theories involved the game Armada and that the government was using the game to train civilians for war with aliens. Zach thought that was an interesting idea, but didn’t really buy into it. However, while Zach is staring out the window at school, he thinks he saw a spacecraft from the game Armada. He cannot believe what he saw, and he thinks he’s going slightly crazy. The next day when he sees it again. The spacecraft is at his school, and it came for him.

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Ernest Cline knows how to tell an adventure story. He has a way of writing that immediately sucks you into that world. Armada takes place in only two days. Because of this short time frame, you don’t have much world building, but the story takes place in 2018 with the Earth and USA pretty much in the same state as it is now, so there is no need to have elaborate world building when you’re living in that world already. Instead of world building, Cline focuses on video game and military technology which is essential to the story. Cline did a good job of not overwhelming you with too much military jargon – there was a nice balance of story and jargon. I never felt like I left the story while reading about the technology.

Because Armada takes place in such a small time frame, you don’t get to know as much about the characters as you would in a book that spans over months or years. However, you do get to know the most defining moments of the Lightman family – father’s death and Zach’s “Incident.” You definitely get a good sense how him and his mom function as a family unit. You also had a good sense of how Zach and his friends’ relationship worked. It’s like you already knew these people which is amazing considering the time frame of the book.

Cline is a master at pop culture references. He did this with Ready Player One, and has continued this with Armada. If you don’t get all of his references, you still understand what’s happening. You know, the thing about using pop culture references is that you have to use them correctly. You can’t make a joke using a reference that has nothing do with the topic at hand. Cline uses them appropriately, and that helps wit the understanding and humor of the book. His jokes don’t seem out of place, and they are never shoved down your throat saying, “LOOK HOW FUNNY THIS JOKE WAS. LAUGH AT IT.” Along with this, his jokes and story telling, he never assumes his readers are dumb. He doesn’t spoon feed you.


The weakest part of the whole book was the ending. It felt kind of flat. It makes you say,”…Oh. That was it?” The funny thing is that Zach Lightman kind of feels the same way. It was very underwhelming to me. In this case, Cline was really drilling down his political agenda to the reader. That didn’t bother me as much as the anti-climatic the reasoning for the whole story.


Ernest Cline has done it again. He developed a story that is immersive, funny, relateable, and down right fun. I think every gamer has at one point pretended they were fighting a real battle while playing their video game. Cline brings this concept to reality with a humor infused seriousness. Fans of Ready Player One and Ender’s Game will appreciate Cline’s ability to bring the reality in virtual reality.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

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