The second Ernest Cline book, Armada, is not as good as his first novel. There, you don’t have to read any further unless you want to know why this is the case. Now remember, not as good doesn’t mean bad because it’s a comparison ranking. However, many of the praises I had for Ready Player One don’t apply to this book, including it’s small scale personal motive and unique narrative style. The latter is due not only to the fact that this is his second novel but because the characters of Wade and Zach read exactly like one another.
Speaking of character narratives, Zach shares almost everything in common with Wade including his eclectic fascination for nerd cultures, films, music and games, and his ability to derive conspiracy theories from them. In this case, Zach just happens to be right and all of the games and films relating to aliens and alien invasions really are connected to an oncoming alien invasion, and the game Armada is actually preparing everyone for the oncoming war. Include a father complex, a bad temper and a moderate skill with talking to girls with similar tastes and you might get an idea of how generic this character is.
With that out of the way, I can say that if you enjoyed Ready Player One you will enjoy Armada as well. However, only so long as you’re not expecting much more from the reference packed narrative you got in in Ready Player One, enjoy the generic alien invasion plot and get choked up over family problems and minor character deaths. But if you’re still expecting a minor personal motive to encourage the main character rather than the end of the world or a complex boy meets girl relationship, don’t expect too much. There’s still the references, still the cynical teenage first person style and still a lot of video games and irony of the ending is a real kick in the nuts for the human race.
The writing style breaks a few of the rules Ernest Cline is known for breaking such as creating a plot out of a conspiracy theory premise based in real life, not making the most interesting character the protagonist and, of course, being so self-aware that it pretty much breaks the fourth wall. I would have included a few more to do with the character and ending but that would be delving into spoiler territory. To be as vague as possible, the skills that makes Zach relevant for the plot doesn’t end up being relevant for the plot. If I was going to recommend a book with the same premise delivered better it would be Ender’s Game and, strangely, this is the book most referenced in Armada.
Even though it’s only the second of book of his that I’ve read, Ernest Cline has a distinctive enough writing style that I can safely say it’s a very Ernest Cline-ee kind of book. So much so that the main character and plot tools are almost indistinguishable from his previous work. The one thing this book does differently is the one thing I praised his previous book for and, for me, this made it good but still inferior to most of the works it references.
Total Rank: 7