I’ve posted a couple of photos online of my reading progress and the most common questions I’ve gotten have been:
- Did you read Ready Player One (RP1)?
- Is this better than RP1?
To which I say: Yes, I did read RP1. And yes, in my mind, this book is better...but, I don’t have the kind of nerd hero-worship that exists around RP1. It is an entertaining book. It has lots of nerdy references. The characters are funny and exchange clever dialogue. There are great action sequences.
If that is your threshold for a good book, then congrats – you have nothing to worry about. You will like Armada as well. But the devil’s in the details, so here we go.
I found the stakes to be much higher in Armada – global invasion will do that for you – and I thought that overall, the characters felt more real. There are some moments that feel forced (a big meet-and-greet with several players is especially stilted). Some of the twists are so trope-laden it would have been more daring to go in the opposite direction, and I would love, love to read the version of this novel that’s all about hacker bad-ass Lex. Give the people (or just me) what we (I) want!
(Granted, Lex feels a little…deus ex machina-y at times, but that’s why I want more of her. She’s jailbreaking reverse-engineered alien tech all the damn time. I’d love a short story’s that’s just “Lex jailbreaks the patriarchy” and gives her more depth and dimension, because the potential is there.)
The novel alternates between being another love letter to nerd culture and being derivative. The former is when it works well, and the latter when it falls flat.
Several reviews I’ve seen have noted concerns with the plot and climax. I didn’t share those concerns, and felt the book built up fairly well. There are some moments that feel particularly heavy-handed, but this wasn’t one of them, at least for me. And Cline’s final pages seem to strongly suggest sequel potential, which, again – more Lex, please. Let’s have a lady protagonist this time.
In many ways, Armada is like a summer blockbuster – entertaining and action-packed. Of course there are a quiet moments, for contrast, pacing, and character development (we don’t all have the chops/cojones to pull off Mad Max: Fury Road). But overall, it’s a good popcorn read.
(Literally. I read this while eating a bowl of popcorn yesterday.)
Review originally posted at manuscripts & marginalia @ellobooks