I loved-loved-LOVED his first book, Ready, Player One, which grabbed me with the tone, sense of humor, and plot, and intrigued me with its pop culture references. I mean, big nerd here, lover of video games, watcher of '80s movies, and sometimes-player of DnD, all of which were vital parts to the plot of RPO. Some of the references in RPO were probably 5-10 years before my time, but though the book was heavy with them, it still worked for me. So, maybe it's not fair to judge Cline's second book on the merits of his first one, but...I did anyway. I went into Armada expecting something at least somewhat in the same vein--great plot and dense with nerd culture references but not enough to bog it down too much. For the most part, I was not disappointed.
To give you a brief run-down without spoiling it for you...basically, this is the story of Zack Lightman, a high school senior whose love of sci-fi alien butt-kicking video games turns out to be useful in a real-deal alien invasion that is suspiciously just like those in his favorite movies and video games. It turns out there is way more going on than meets the eye, and different things at stake than anyone realizes.
--Cline's narrative was more focused and tighter in Armada than in Ready, Player One. I guess that's a positive and a negative for me, though; I felt like the story flowed better, but I actually missed some of the layers and texture RPO seemed to possess through the heavy plot.
--The nerd references were present, as in RPO, but they were better-executed. Less unnecessary description and more in line with the narrative instead of extraneous to it. And, bonus for me, the video games and sci-fi movies referenced were ones I was much more familiar with.
--Decent characters, fun plot, overall a pretty great and enjoyable story. It was an approachable sci-fi story that fans of the genre and those not as hardcore about it could appreciate and enjoy.
--I felt like most of the supporting characters were underdeveloped. They were great, but I was left wanting more of them! The focused narrative meant that the details kind of suffered. I felt like Cline sort of overcorrected a little bit after many complained he overdid the descriptive tangents in RPO.
--I guess the same could be said for some of the plot and action throughout the book, as well--I was left wishing it had dug deeper into everything. It just felt a little rushed.
--Things tied up a little too quickly and too neatly in the end. There was a crucial, emotional scene that hit me in the appropriate feels, but it almost took me by surprise and then ended almost too abruptly. Again, a little rushed.
All that said, I really enjoyed this second outing from Ernest Cline! I can't wait to read whatever he writes next. Tone and sense of humor are probably the biggest things I read for and judge on, and he hits those RIGHT on the head for me.
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**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!