Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.
And then he sees the flying saucer.
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Find the book on Audible. (Seriously though. Do it.)
We open with an amazing introductory-level geeky conversation; Mjolnir vs Sting for best melee weapon. If you’re reading the book, odds are you’ve at least seen LOTR and The Avengers. Then there are the millions of other generally wonderful pop culture references including, what no novel centred around gaming should be without, a LEEROY JENKINS shout out and, my personal favourite line, “I just lost my gorram shields because I’m already out of frakkin’ power!” I’m sure there are a tonne of references that flew right over my head, but I have to give Cline props for adding in something for everyone. Pop culture references are pretty much my life’s blood, and to find that reflected in fiction always gives me the warm and fuzzies.
But on to the actual story, and who doesn’t love the idea of a dreamer getting exactly what he thought he wanted? The plot is a tiny bit slow to get going. I enjoyed the set up, and it was certainly necessary, but for the first third of the novel I did catch myself wondering just when these promised aliens were going to put in an appearance. Of course, once they showed up that was that. The story took off, the conspiracy theories deepened, and the epic laser space battles (pew! pew!) could begin in earnest. The invasion storyline had me hooked, and all of the questions it raised, and I was right there with it up until the very end when, I’ll be honest, Cline lost me a little bit. Things seemed to be escalating to such a point where nothing short of a Deus Ex Machina could save the world and, I don’t know, the book would have had to have been a heck of a lot longer for thing to resolve any other way. So while the plot was well crafted for the most part, I did find most of the secondary characters to be lacking, and sadly, in the end, a lot of them ended up as cannon fodder. Zach was great, though, and The General. Oh, The General.
For me, Cline’s strength is in the action and plot progression and the general way in which his writing reads like watching a film – which I love. What makes me love his books even more is Will Wheton’s perfect narration. And I mean perfect. In counting down to Armada’s release I only briefly considered buying the ebook. Wheton and Cline are one of my very favourite pairings and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to listen to Wheton regale me with yet another fantastic and witty sci fi adventure.
Yes, that twist half way through wasn’t the most surprising. And no, neither was that ending. It doesn’t mean I was any less invested though, or that it hurt any less when it turned out the way it did. You’re Welcome, indeed.