Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One was a runaway bestseller when it was published in 2011. It combined video game and pop culture references with a wonderful story and vibrant characters. The author’s second novel Armada is in the same vein. Unfortunately, neither the story nor the characters are of the same quality as his first book.
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Armada. I couldn’t put it down, finishing it in only two days. However, the plot was The Last Starfighter meets Ender’s Game. I found it predictable. The author attempted to overcome this by actually referring to those two stories, but that was a bit too meta and didn’t really work for me.
The characters weren’t nearly as engaging as his debut. I didn’t spend enough time with most of them to build any kind of relationship or feeling for them. But, again, I still really enjoyed the book.
Like his first book, the author loads the story with 80s pop culture, video game, and science fiction references. Somehow many to most of them feel a bit tacked on and occasionally remote. I had to look up more than I did in his first book. But maybe that’s just me.
My bottom line for this novel is that it’s good enough. It is a light, fun, quick read. It didn’t challenge me or make me think. It was bubble gum for my reading life. And sometimes that’s all I’m looking for.