This novel shows that Ernest Cline has found his writing formula and he's sticking to it. I wasn't going to compare Armada to Ready Player One since it's not a sequel, but here I go anyway. Much like his first novel, Armada is chock full of eighties pop culture references. And while this is new and fun and relevant in RP1, here it just feels like the only thing Cline knows how to do. The plot of RP1 revolved around retro trivia. In Armada, the references serve to build a strangely obsessive link between Zack Lightman (props on the solid sci-fi hero name) and his long-deceased father. Zack’s knowledge base is more accessible than the protagonist’s in RP1, though the Trek/Wars/Trek/Wars mentions feel repetitive fairly quickly. The Last Starfighter is included in these references, a smart move because omitting the film would, in light of the other references, seem to deny its similarities to Armada's plot.
Speaking of which... Armada is about a boy who gets really good at a video game. Turns out it's not just for entertainment! It's exactly the same interface as the hidden armies of drones that a secret branch of international military has stashed all over the world! And thus the action begins as Zack is recruited to fend off the invading alien species. This book throws you into intense action pretty quickly, but it still feels slow. I'm trying to think about the plot events, and there aren't a ton. Action? A smattering. Character development? A good amount, though once the characters are established you rarely see them again. I wish this book had been longer, not necessarily because it was so good but because it could have been. More missions, more of those characters we only got a glimpse at! When the story wraps up, I'm not sure what to expect in the future because I don't think Zack's story is done, but there's not a direct sequel setup. All that being said, if you love RP1's style and cast, this is definitely in the same vein. It draws from many elements of classic sci-fi and it checks the boxes I expected it to. I have some problems with its big picture, but page to page it kept me engaged.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.