Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaAfter highly enjoying Wil Wheaton’s audio recording of Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One (One of my Top Ten I read in 2014) I knew I had to go for the format again with Cline’s Armada, which, like it’s predecessor, is laced with biting dark humor and loaded with geek-culture references. This one pays homage to space and alien invasion sci-fi, leaning hard on tropes and plotlines found in classic works like Stark Trek and Ender’s Game, but the humor and pacing kept me highly entertained. 4/5 stars.

Synopsis

When Zack Lightman sees a spaceship straight out of his favorite video game, Armada, fly over his high school, he thinks he’s finally lost it.  But it turns out the invasion is happening and the game he’s mastered was simply training for the fight to save Earth.

Review

While I have a few negative things to say about it after analyzing it a bit, taken as a whole, I found this novel to be undeniably fun. I listened to the audiobook in one day while cleaning the house, and anything that makes me laugh out loud while scrubbing my kitchen sink is definitely funny. The seriousness of the alien invasion and battles that follow is addressed as well, in ways both funny and heartfelt as characters face life or death situations with humor and then make and deal with sacrifices and the consequences of global war. It’s not the biggest part of the whole story, but it’s definitely there and it keeps this story from being completely off the wall ridiculous, as I think it could have been otherwise.

Somehow I managed to stay engrossed in this, even though I did find the plot twists to be rather predictable. There’s some early foreshadowing that is definitely laid on a bit too think, but overall, I liked watching Zack navigate everything. The world was built well, I thought he was a character likable enough to root for and his reactions to big and little situations were very entertaining. However, I do think that there were some missed opportunities in the relationships and character building. What we got was all great, but there was one situation in particular where I felt a conflict was glossed over for the sake of moving the plot forward at a climactic moment. I can understand the necessity of keeping the pace up, but the omission took away from the reality of the situation and flattened out a character who showed early signs of being quite interesting.

Although it’s not the most thought-provoking, it’s definitely smart and fun without being too lighthearted, given the seriousness of the situation. I continue to be a fan of Ernest Cline’s and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Just a quick announcement to say I’ll be participating in the Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A Thon, which starts in approximately 10 hours. I’m planning to work on two books I’ve already started: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs and Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. If I finish one or both of those, I’ll be rolling right into Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs and/or John Dies at the End by David Wong.

If you also want to last-minute sign up and join in you can do so here.

I’ll be doing most of my updating on Twitter, so follow me there if you’re participating. We can cheer each other on!

September Reviews

I had a pretty good month for quantity and quality this month. And the best news is I finished up my Netflix binge of Supernatural right at the end of September, so I should get even more read and written in October.

991197Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

As most of you probably know, Persepolis is a graphic memoir of Satrapi’s childhood and early adulthood in Iran during the Iranian revolution years of the 1980’s. It simultaneously captures the more universal aspects of her growing-up experience and presents the stress and fear brought on by the threat and reality of war and politically instability and oppression. It was simply and beautifully drawn as well, small panels done in bold lines of black and white, which often really added to the power of the message. I highly recommend this one.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J Maas18006496

Overall a very solid installment. This series has expanded above and beyond its somewhat cliched beginnings and become really wonderful. I did have a few small problems with this one, namely that the character development was somewhat lacking. We had good action and some new character introductions, so maybe there just wasn’t time but I felt like a lot of relationships changed somewhat suddenly and that romantic pairs were thrown together simply to satisfy a reader desire for everyone to be happy in love, which I find kind of annoying. But there was great plot development in this, and lots of high-stakes action, which made this 700+ pager fly by extremely quickly. Highly enjoyable, as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Maas.

22754100The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’d heard some ambivalent and negative reviews and wasn’t sure I’d read it, but I was glad I did. A small cast of characters makes the whodunnit pretty easy to predict, but the genius of this plot is that none of the characters are obviously evil and all of them have motive and some sort of character flaw that would allow them to act on it. They’re all unlikeable, which I thought was really interesting, trying to decide who to like or root for or suspect and I got hooked into it and was kept guessing just enough (my predicition was right in the end, but I just wasn’t sure) to read this in two sittings over two days.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon10967

This installment in the saga was pretty good overall, spectacular at moments, but I felt it dragging a lot and I was ultimately pretty unsatisfied with where it left off. There were a few new developments, but it mostly dwelled on problems and conflicts set up at the end of the previous installment that this never actually resolved. There were really remarkable passages, usually in small domestic scenes, that were just beautifully composed, but the overall story was a bit disappointing.

24817626Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

It’s been a few weeks since I finished this and I still can’t figure out how to feel about it. First, I’ll say that in a weird way, this book is trying to do some of the same things that To Kill a Mockingbird does, just less successfully. This dwells rather needlessly on long stretches of Maycomb history and teenage Jean Louise flashback but rushes the climactic confrontation and resolution. I have no basis for saying this, but I strongly suspect something almost identical to this happened to Harper Lee, because it’s emotional, but it lacks the symbolism and subtlety of her other, famous work. It’s ultimately cathartic, but it mostly just meanders. I wish I could read it completely blindly, as though it wasn’t TKM’s characters in “the future” (sarcastic air quotes. I really don’t see this as a direct sequel, since it’s not quite factually consistent) to suss out whether or not I’m jaded or just plainly didn’t enjoy it. I think it’s probably a mix of both.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling22716447

This is Mindy Kaling’s second memoir and it mostly covers the few years since the publication of her first, though she did delve back into her years of college and early years in LA as well. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrates, and highly enjoyed it. Mindy’s smart and funny, and she also has some great insights that make it more worthwhile than a piece of light entertainment. In particular, I enjoyed her closing commentary on body image and think it’s definitely worth the listen or read.