Armada by Ernest Cline – Book Review

Armada by Ernest Cline – Book Review

Ernest Cline’s other nerdy book that is not Ready Player One

 Synopsis of Armada

The novel follows an eighteen-year-old boy called Zack Lightman who is ranked in the top 10 of a video game called Armada, The Red Baron is ranked first. Zack is ranked 6th under the name of Red Baron. His father supposedly died straight after he was born, leaving Zack and his mother to fend for themselves. All his father has left behind is a conspiracy theory, a theory that the government is preparing people for an alien invasion through games such as Armada and films like Star Wars.

During a day at school, Zack sees an alien spaceship from the game Armada, not believing what he is seeing her runs home and further explores his father’s conspiracy stuff in the attic. He then brushes it off and continues to go about his life, playing video games with his two best friends and working at a local game store under a man called Rey. Rey gives him the latest console to further improve his skills on Armada.

Later that night him and his two best friends Cruz and Deihl, they get a serious brief before playing Armada together. A brief from the fictional character Admiral Vance, who describes the mission in detail as a once only mission to stop a disruptor destroying the earth. They ultimately fail this mission believing they will get another opportunity another time.

The next, however, while at school the EDA (Earth Defence Association) show up to take Zack away with him being ranked in the top 10 of Armada in the world by Ray. He is taken to a secret facility where all the other top players are gathered also in which it is revealed there will be an alien invasion in 24 hours by Admiral Vance who is actually real. Here, him and love interest, Lex, a top player in the other government designed game Terra Firma as they divulge the information being giving to them that they have been sublimely trained to fight an incoming alien invasion, against the so-called Europans. As they are talking, they base is attacked by the Europans causing them to sign up to the EDA and defend the base.

The base is defended relatively successfully, although Zack nearly destroys the base by not following orders to not follow a Europan drone. He is nearly sent home for his mistake but Vance decides to keep him as a favour to his father, who had saved Vance’s life. Vance then sends him to the moon base to join the other highly ranked Armada players.

Zack arrives on the moon and joins fellow top players, and is to report to the top player the Red Baron, who is actually his father. He and his father reunite and his father explains his theory of why the Europans are attacking earth, stating that is all a test by the Europans as they are letting Earth fight back and take their technology. This comes to be true as the Europans attack through their first wave wiping out half the earth until Zack father sacrifices himself to destroy an alien dreadnought. Realising it is a test Zack and his father stops the nuked (Icebreaker), the earth has planned to use on the Europans, Zacks dad dying in the process.

After stopping the nuke, an Icosahedron arises from the planet and identifies itself as an emissary of a machine that was created by a galactic community of civilizations called the Sodality. The whole invasion was a test to see how aggressive earth could be, and earth passed only just because they stopped the nuke. Zack accepts membership to the Sodality on earth behalf causing the Icosahedron to send help to earth to restore it and help the survivors. Zack later joins as an ambassador to learn the aliens’ true motives.


Similar to Ready Player One, Ernest Cline uses a lot of 80s references throughout his novel which creates nostalgia. The 80s being Cline’s favourite period. Zack is a likeable character as he is your typical gamer nerd whos dream comes true of being part of his favourite game comes to life. He becomes the hero of his own game, which any person would love to be. Although, obviously it is not as you want to be in every way as Zack experiences, such as you can actually die part.

The concept is also similar to Ender’s Game which Cline alludes to as they both share the idea of computer game having an alternative motive. In a way, it is as dark as Ender’s Game as the Icosahedron has destroyed half of the earth as a test. In Ender’s Game, Ender destroys nearly an entire civilisation as a test unknown to himself it wasn’t tested. Armada has a less serious tone but has a great deal of sacrifice through it, Milo and Shen, to gay lovers sacrificing themselves to save other, along with Zacks father Xavier.

Although Armada is a great book, I still think Ready Player One is better due to the anything can happen narrative and the open world it creates.


Leave a comment if you’ve read any of Ernest Cline’s books


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