May 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

armadaArmada by Ernest Cline


Yes, yes, this is a blatant rip-off of The Last Starfighter. I think that’s been pointed out often enough that I shouldn’t repeat it, but I don’t want anyone to think I missed it. I don’t see how anyone could, though, since somewhere in the first few chapters, Cline mentions that the whole thing sounds like The Last Starfighter. Had this been some sort of homage or pastiche, I could understand, but no, he just keeps on going with his story like it’s no big deal.

Now, since this is an Ernest Cline novel, it’s chock full of ’80s pop culture references. The thing is, in Ready Player One, they were useful for the story; here, they’re just shoved in. Cline makes sure we know that the main character is obsessing over his dad, who died when he was young, and was himself an ’80s pop culture geek, but it doesn’t ring true that this guy (and his friends!) would be quoting so much from that time. It feels forced and gratuitous, and doesn’t serve any purpose to the story.

To Cline’s credit, he does go outside the Last Starfighter trope and doesn’t make this a straight carbon copy, but not enough to save the story. The characterization is uneven (like RP1, the only important character here is the narrator; everyone else is just there to support him) and even inconsistent, and the storytelling style feels awkward. The main character’s mother didn’t even feel realistic, since she’s the perfect mom for someone of the narrator’s age — hot, cool, and understanding. I don’t want him to go to the other end of the cliche and make her the overbearing stereotype, but somewhere in the middle would be nice. Like I said, though, she’s not important to the story, save to let him keep working at the local game store and playing games during all his available free time.

I get that fiction is wish fulfillment on the part of the author, but there’s a not-so-fine line between wish fulfillment and Mary Sue-ing. I enjoyed the hell out of RP1 when I first read it (though I now view it from the perspective of the other side of Gamergate and Gatekeeping), but I think it’s safe to say that Wade and Zack are stand-ins for Cline. It’s a readable book, but it doesn’t have any staying power, thanks to the poor narrative and the hand-waving (and very sudden) ending. That this was titled Armada: A novel by the author of Ready Player One tells you enough about how the publishers felt was the best way to sell this book.

Started: March 24, 2018
Finished: April 1, 2018

1 Comment

  1. nawfalaq said,

    I am disappointed in the author/publisher for this mess. Your review confirms what so many other reviews have said. Still, I appreciate your thoughts on the novel.

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