REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest Cline

 

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REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest ClineTitle: Armada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing
Published: July 14th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

“Kill or be killed. Conquer or be conquered. Survive or go extinct.”

Armada is an anomaly. On the surface, the book seems to be a good follow-up to Ready Player One. When I think about it more, though, the more I realize I didn’t care about any of the characters in the book itself. I like having something and someone to care about. The pacing, the style, and the references are all great fun and incredibly engaging, but I felt as if there was a significant lack of depth in character development among all of the characters. Reading Armada was like reading a mashup of all of the great 80s video games and science fiction movies without having any substance or heft, like Cline’s saying oh hey, look at all of these cool and sometimes obscure references I can throw in~~~ One can certainly write a novel with all of those cool references and still reveal some character development.

While I was reading it (and weirdly unable to put it down), all I could think about was: of course Zack Lightman is a video game wiz at this new/old-fangled Starfighter/Starcraft game, of course his dad’s not dead, of course his parents hook up again before the big battle scene, of course his dad dies at the end, of course his mom has another kid. I would have liked to see more of a reaction from the characters, especially Zack, about the alien invasion and how it affected each of them, but it was all surface level revelations. And there was so much deus ex machina that could have been avoided by avoiding writing oneself into otherwise inescapable plot lines. The more I think about it, the more I would have liked to see things from the perspective of Zack’s “manic pixie dream girl,” a trope I am tired of seeing in fiction generally geared toward and advertised toward young male readership.

Reading it was like eating awesome candy. It’s going to be gone in a moment, and you aren’t going to get any value from it. Already, I feel as if Cline is writing himself into a very narrow niche. There is only so much one can do with 80s references before it becomes too repetitive and too trite. There is only so much one can do with these mashups before it becomes disengaging.

Cline, however, has a great writing style. I couldn’t put Armada down. It was only after the fact that I was left feeling super disappointed. I want to see Cline’s style and voice exploring other galaxies – original galaxies – and developing more rounded and believable characters in the future. I know he’s capable of it. Ready Player One certainly showed it. I’ll certainly read whatever Cline writes next. I just hope it has more depth.

I’d still recommend Armada to people, though, even if I came away from Ready Player One with high expectations. It’s fun. It’s accessible. It’s a great summery, beachy science fiction read. I just wanted more.

On Not Finishing Books, and Other Things

Lately I’ve been really aware of how many books I want to read and the limited amount of time I have in which to read, so I’m getting better about setting aside books if they aren’t grabbing my interest or if something about them annoys me. And to be clear, 95% of these DNFs are ones I’ve borrowed from the library because I was hesitant about purchasing them in the first place so I don’t feel bad about not being able to finish them. There are a few that I’ve bought that I’m like, ugh, I can’t finish this, but thankfully those are few and far in between. I’m already thinking I need to stop using the library and actually read the ARCs, review copies, and unread books I’ve bought that are just sitting here.

The Fold - Peter Clines My most recent DNF is Peter Clines’ The Fold. I remember enjoying Ex-Heroes a few years ago, and when I heard about this recent release, I found the idea intriguing and the cover pretty fabulous. Unfortunately, I’m sort of tired of the adult white male mastermind who can do just about anything, remember just about anything, and have no apparent faults within the first hundred pages sort of trope. So, by the time this perfect Sherlock-esque mastermind, Mike, figures out that the people who made this Door to travel to alternate timelines had no idea what they were doing, I was bored. This wasn’t interesting to me at all. And I was kind of sad, because I love Sherlock-esque characters when done well, and I love time-hopping science fiction. Ultimately, what made me set the book aside was Mike’s ability to rewatch entire movies in his mind before he falls asleep – that movie being Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a dated pop culture reference already. Ugh. Maybe I’ll give it another go in a few months when I’m not all about female representation in sci-fi, because I might’ve been more interested in this one if the characters didn’t come off as trope-y cardboard standees.

Ugh.

In better news, I’m doing really well on my reading challenge. There were a few days I barely made it over a hundred pages of reading, but I’m averaging out to be more than two hundred a day!

Personal Reading Challenge~

For the rest of July (the 10th through the 31st), I’ve given myself a personal reading challenge! I love Urban Decay’s lipsticks, and I really want the UD Naked Smoky palette, so I’m using those things as my motivation. Each day I have to read at least 200 pages with a total of 4,400 pages read by 31 July. If I reach that goal, I can treat myself to a new lipstick color! If I exceed those 4,400 pages by at least 1,600 pages, I can get the new Naked Smoky palette!

The main reason for this little personal challenge of mine is that I’m spending too much time browsing the internet and not reading when I have all of these books on my shelves, from the library, and from NetGalley that I want to read! Time just seems to slip away. I don’t like that.

I’m currently reading four books: Heller’s Catch-22, Le Carré’s The Night Manager, Chu’s Time Salvager, and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Two of those I’ve been picking at since March and April, one’s an ARC I received from a Goodreads giveaway that I want to read and review in a timely manner, and this summer I’m doing a Harry Potter reread!

It’s been easy to meet the goal today thanks to Harry Potter, because today I’ve read at least a third of Prisoner of Azkaban and more than 200 pages of Goblet of Fire. I’ve even managed to squeeze in about fifty pages of Catch-22 in an effort to get that book done and finally be able to say I’ve read it (there’s something about American fiction in certain decades that doesn’t really resonate with me too much, and Catch-22 is one of them, particularly on the grounds of its military focus). Either way, it’s nice to spend a day off mostly reading and it’s nice to be ahead, especially if I want that makeup!

And! I finally figured out child themes! Pink is one of my least favorite colors and that was the main color of this theme, so I’m glad to have something a bit more to my liking! And it wasn’t difficult at all. Thanks, Google and YouTube! Maybe I’ll be more inclined to post more often now that I don’t have to keep looking at pink all the time.

REVIEW: Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard

“Anyone can betray anyone.”

TITLE: Red Queen
AUTHOR: Victoria Aveyard
PUBLISHED: 2015
PAGES: 383
FORMAT: Hardcover
SOURCE: Library
RATING: 3/5

SUMMARY: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood — those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except… her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart. – from the book jacket

REVIEW: Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen has been getting a lot of hype in the last several months either on the bookstore front, the book bloggers’ front, and more recently with Elizabeth Banks reportedly to direct the film. I finally got Red Queen this past week when it finally came through the library for me (ugh, holds and hold queues and self-imposed book buying bans, but yay, free books!). Once I got it, I put everything else I’ve been dabbling in reading on hold. I’ve been through a weird and frustrating reading slump this year, so I’m literally about to do anything to keep myself reading, including writing about what I read! That’s more for another post.

I liked it.

It didn’t wow the socks off of me and it didn’t disappoint me, which is why it gets three stars out of five instead of anything less or more. I just want more? I’m so happy there’s a sequel coming out next year, because I feel as if Red Queen is just a setup for so, so much more. It’s a lot like Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass in the sense that the first novel in the series/trilogy is all about setting the stage for the real action. I don’t know what my real opinion about Red Queen and the other two books in the trilogy will be until they come out. I’ll have more of an I love this!! or an It’s just okay. opinion once the second one comes out, I think. I tend to read trilogies as cohesive narratives rather than individual books.

Now that I’ve finished it and have thought about it for most of the day, Red Queen draws on a lot of popular tropes and themes in popular fantasy and YA fiction, and that’s okay. There are threads of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, themes of Cinderella (the title had me hoping for an Alice in Wonderland vibe, but alas), X-Men mutant abilities, and the dystopian society of The Hunger Games woven in the narrative. While that might seem stale to some, I liked it. I thought it was an engaging, entertaining read. It sets the stage for more intrigue and drama, and that’s good because I want more.

The biggest issue I had with it was the love… square? Maven is by far the most interesting, Cal is sort of boring, and there’s not much I really gathered from Kilorn (and that’s probably because I started this book when I couldn’t sleep at about three in the morning, so the first few chapters are a little fuzzy in my memory). I’m hoping that this love square is happening just because Mare hasn’t been out of her Red world much and because she’s still figuring herself out in the midst of everything. And it’s not the main focus of the book. It’s sort of a plot point for the climax of the narrative, but it doesn’t overshadow anything else.

Overall, I enjoyed it! I’m looking forward to more (and I think I’ve said that about three times now, oops).

Hello Universe!

I’ve been procrastinating long enough! Too much thinking, not enough productivity. I’m going to try to post twice a week about what I’m reading, whether it’s an actual review or something else book-related! I’ve got so many things to read, so many things I want to read, and I want to keep up my smarts when it comes to writing about books. I can’t let that MA I’ve earned just linger there. In addition to writing about books and writing, I also hope to document in some form my journey to earning my PhD. That’s still some time coming, and I hope the process is relatively steady. There’s just a lot to do between now and then!

I have a few eARCs from Netgalley to read soon, of which I’m especially looking forward to reading Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams and Jessica Day George’s Silver in the Blood. I also checked out a huge stack of books from the library, and there’s a few I’ve checked out that I’ll have posts about soon.

Until next time!