“No one in the world gets what they want and that is beautiful.” ― Ernest Cline
When I decided to do the review for Ernest Cline‘s much-anticipated novel Armada, I wanted to do a doubleheader and include my brief
rehashing review of his debut best-selling novel Ready Player One as well.
Before I start let me just tell you a short disclaimer that I am no expert video gamer or gamer in general. I’m as casual as a casual gamer could be. My knowledge about video games is as limited as my knowledge of astrophysics and quantum mechanics. But I am a sucker for pop culture. As a kid growing up I was glued to the TV almost 24/7 (I wanna thank my parents for that, we were lucky enough to afford cable TV) which enabled me to watch most of the iconic movies, cartoons and TV shows in the history of American pop culture. Okay given that these were already re-runs and that most of it I devoured during my pre-teen to teen years (Yes I was alternating between burrowing my nose on a book and staying glued to the TV when I was a kid. And no, my childhood was not sad or boring, far from it actually haha) I knew that what I lack in gaming knowledge, I can make up for with my liking of pop culture. So before you get your pitchforks and light up your torches whenever I mentioned in the duration of my review that I am no gamer, please do remember this little piece of caveat I provided. 😛
Ready Player One is Cline’s debut novel set in 2044 where reality is an ugly place and that almost everyone wants to escape it via the perfect virtual utopia known as OASIS, a massive multiplayer online game which is the brainchild of James Halliday. And when Halliday died, he decided to bestow all his estate and controlling share of stock in his company Gregarious Simulations Systems, creators of OASIS, to that one person/player who can successfully complete the Hunt for three keys hidden within the game which can only be found with the help of different clues that was placed within OASIS. This started an adventure of a lifetime for one eighteen-year-old kid living in a trailer park in Oklahoma City. So the story of Wade Watts a.k.a Parzival and his life as a “Gunter” in search of Halliday’s clues or eggs unfolded.
I read Ready Player One back in December of 2014 when a friend of mine recommended the title to me with much enthusiasm. My initial reaction was one of skepticism since she knew I wasn’t into video games so I was clueless why’d she think I would like to read a book which pretty much revolves around a virtual reality game. But then I was pretty intrigued with the way she described it, so I went over to Goodreads to check it out and decided to buy the book to satisfy my curiosity. Good thing I did, because I wasn’t able to put it down the moment I started reading it.
Given that I’m writing the review relying on my
ever sharp memory of this book, I may just give you the gist and not babble about every detail of it. What made Ready Player One such an addictive read is the sense of adventure that Ernest Cline was able to bring in every page. There was never a dull moment for me. His characters: Wade/Parzival, Art3mis, Aech and many others, are clever, quick-witted and hilarious. For a gaming newbie noob, the flow of the story wasn’t hard to follow. It was simply put and well written that you can relate to it even if you haven’t played any of the games that were mentioned in the book your entire life. Okay that maybe a bit of a stretch, but for non-gamers, this novel would still appeal to you because it wasn’t all about video or arcade games, it also included numerous references to the entire 80’s pop culture. From movies, TV shows, celebrities, personalities, toys, fashion and fads, you name it the book had it and that added to its entertainment value. The geek in you would just die and go to geek heaven with all the famous references made in the story.
“You know you’ve totally screwed up your life when your whole world turns to shit and the only person you have to talk to is your system agent software!”
The story’s plot and twists are refreshing and it avoided any tropes of the usual sci-fi adventure read. It stayed true to its characters and the different issues that they were facing like growing up, falling in love and getting your heart broken for the first time all in the middle of a Hunt that can basically change your entire future and maybe of the whole world. All while also trying to dodge people who are trying to kill you so they can beat you in getting the ultimate prize. This story can easily be a representation of our near future, with all the advancements in technology and our never-ending need to be online. Definitely a must read for everyone. I guess if I haven’t sold you on buying a copy of Ready Player One, well maybe Steven Spielberg signing up to be the director for the movie adaptation would convince you otherwise.
Following the success of Ready Player One, comes the new sci-fi adventure read Armada where we get introduced to Zack Lightman, a typical senior waiting to get out high school and itching to have that life-altering moment which would set him off to his grand adventure. Till then he spends his time playing countless hours of online games and working on a part-time job at a video game store where he eats tons of junk food and plays yet again. Typical right? Down-right normal. Until Zack sees a flying saucer just outside the window of his school. And it looks exactly the same as the enemy ships he’s so used to shooting down in the online flight simulator game he is currently playing, Armada.
Armada definitely packs the same action and adrenaline filled adventure theme as RPO. All complete with Cline’s signature pop culture references and nods to science fiction. Including notable cameos from respected and prominent names in space exploration. This new novel explores a different side on our most beloved sci-fi films, books and online games which would leave you wondering at the end, what if it was all somewhat true?
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and allow me to blab about what I love (and what I didn’t exactly like) about this book. In Cline’s second offering, apart from the presence of his signature entertaining style of storytelling and funny jabs, he was able to incorporate a more in-depth take on his protagonist character Zack and was able to build a solid foundation to the emotions that ran into the story. I totally related to his character’s sense of day-dreaming and wanting for an earth shattering moment to come to his life that will change his entire destiny. I think we all had that point in our lives, back when we were still kids (or I think some of us still do until now), and we spend our time
praying imagining that our favorite comic book stories or movies would just suddenly mesh into our reality. That feeling is exactly what I had while reading this book.
When Zack finally comes to terms with what is happening and his vital role as a hero, he stumbles into a lingering question in his mind about the familiarity of his situation. I have to admit, I was trying to figure out or guess the ending of the story while I was reading it. I thought I could beat Cline to the punch, but boy was I wrong. Ernest Cline throws us into a different type of rollercoaster ride which will give you plenty of highs. Of course, with those highs also comes some of the lows. It’s inevitable that I compare Armada to Ready Player One though they’re totally unrelated stories. I found that Armada had a slow start in building that hype of the adventure unlike with RPO. The supporting characters lack some spunk which I think was also vital to the success of Ready Player One. It’s still entertaining, but I didn’t have that strong feeling where I was unable to put the book down, I guess not until I was in the last 100 pages or so.
“No one else could read these tea leaves like you and me, Zack. I feel like there must be a reason the two of us are here right now. We’re in the position to decide the fate of humanity.” He smiled. “Maybe it’s destiny.”
Overall it’s a solid read and a must for the fans of Ready Player One. Ernest Cline did not disappoint in transporting you into his beautiful world of sci-fi adventure with his pop-culture injected writing and amusing coming of age story.
Ready Player One – Read: December 6, 2014
The BookNut Verdict: 5 out of 5!
Armada – Read: July 25, 2015
The BookNut Verdict: 4 out of 5