Armada Ernest Cline

Why I Didn’t Finish Ernest Cline’s Armada

Why I Didn’t Finish Ernest Cline’s ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown/Archetype on July 14th 2015
Source: Publicist
Pages: 368
Buy from IndieBound


I loved Ready Player One. I’m not a super-gamer, but the pop culture junkie in me couldn’t resist the lure of following Wade from clue to clue in an attempt to solve the puzzle at the novel’s core. The book was rompy and creative and fun—everything I failed to find in Armada.

Even without the puzzle framework, I think it’s safe to expect an Ernest Cline novel will have conversations that revolve around video games, Star Wars or obscure references. And Armada does. But on top of the dialogue, the narrator’s thoughts are constantly connected to some aspect of pop culture through simplistic and repetitive figurative language.

“Being forced to sit between my mortal enemy and my ex-girlfriend every afternoon made seventh period math feel like my own private Kobayashi Maru, a brutal no-win scenario designed to test my emotional fortitude.”

Okay. But that’s just the beginning.

A group of bullies are like the goons from Power Rangers.

People are staring like that scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

A lucid dream like Vanilla Sky. Computer simulation like The Matrix. A fantasy life like that episode of The Twilight Zone.

It is relentless. And it just isn’t the way people think, even about their favorite things. Not only does it feel like an obvious attempt to pack in as much nostalgia and gamer culture as possible, it makes for cardboard characters. I certainly get the inclination, especially after the success of Ready Player One, but I can’t help wishing Cline had focused more on infusing Armada with the joy of his previous work rather than doubling down on a few key phrases.


  • I’m glad you shared your thoughts even though you didn’t finish the book…I wish more bloggers would do that! It’s helpful in picking and choosing what to read next.

    • I usually don’t feel like I have much to say, but in this case I was able to pinpoint such a specific thing. Plus, my husband read it right before me and was able to confirm some of the things I suspected about the plot ;)

  • Kay

    I keep meaning to read or probably listen to Read Player One. Good to know your thoughts on this one. I know that so many have been majorly excited. We’ll see how it fares.

    • Kay

      Or rather Ready Player One. I knew that. LOL

    • I’ve heard the audio version of Ready Player One is fantastic and I’d still highly recommend it!

  • Jancee Wright

    I almost disagree with you on your statement that “it just isn’t the way people think, even about their favorite things”. But only in a personal sense. I know for my roommates and I, we do this a lot. Our life is peppered with references and quotes and such. We’ve tried to make our lives and our apartment a personal nerd heaven. By becoming so immersed, I do think like this. I’m very passionate about my favorite things, and work them in as much as possible.

    I think a lot of people deep in nerd culture are the same. But I do agree that most people are probably not in that deep. :)

    • I definitely understand being super immersed in the culture, but I just didn’t feel that Cline really believed what he was writing, if that makes sense. Ready Player One felt passionate, like Cline really loved and cared about all the things he was mentioning…this just felt like name-dropping to me.

      • Jancee Wright

        Interesting perspective.

  • I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m a big fan of sharing even critical or less than glowing reviews, so long as they’re done thoughtfully and rationally. Not every book is for everybody, and only through the personal, true experience of others can we decide that. Thanks for this, on many levels.

    • I don’t write a ton (especially if I don’t finish a book), but it was so obvious what wasn’t fitting together for me that I knew I could at least be voice it clearly. I do hope people still give it a shot, especially if they liked Ready Player One, but maybe go in understanding it will be much different.

  • I downloaded the audiobook of Ready Player One recently, and I’m really excited for it — but I’m kind of glad you’ve justified my disinterest in Armada. Thanks!

  • Love that you explained WHY you didn’t finish.

  • I’ve kind of stagnated around the 200ish page mark… I mean, it’s gotten better, but it all just seems so superficial, and highly predictable. I’m still planning to finish it, but it’s kind of been one big disappointment. I know other people have really enjoyed it, and I’m not saying it’s the worst book by any means, but… meh. I’m ready for it to be over, yet not enough to DNF it.

    • I think I would have felt pretty similar if I ended up continuing. I’m sure there would have been parts I liked, but there were already so many frustrations for me that I knew it wasn’t going to be a great read.

    • I was telling a friend as I started reading it “that I was going to be so pissed off if x, x, and x turned out to be true” and they did. The predictability really killed this one for me.

  • Amanda

    This was great Shannon – and even while explaining why you didn’t read this one you made me just that much more curious to try Ready Player One. It sounds like the audiobook is a must for RPO though!

  • Great post, Shannon! Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts on this one; I have lots of respect for those of you who call it like you see it!

    • I definitely think we should all give books a fair shot, but sometimes it helps to have a few opinions before going in :)

  • I really like the quote, which might have swayed me to read it, even though it never really appealed to me before. But, the other things you mentioned are a lot to take in; it seems like a lot of filler to me. I love that you explained why it didn’t work for you, even though it was a DNF for you.

    • I think if this had happened a few times it wouldn’t have bothered me, but when it kept happening (combined with all the pop culture in the dialogue) it just felt like overkill.

  • I didn’t love Ready Player One as much as others did when it came out, so I’m giving Armada a pass. But I’m sad to see so many hopeful bloggers get disappointed after being so excited for it! :/

    • I still hope everyone that was excited about it gives it a shot, but I think maybe tempering expectations will help make it a little more enjoyable.

  • I’ve been looking forward to this one forever, and I was really disappointed when it was delayed a full year before publication, I can’t help but wonder, upon reading it, if the quality just wasn’t there…

    • I totally forgot that it was planned for last summer! I think you’re probably right…it just seems a little weak all around.

  • Sounds like he took the easy route, what a let down :(

  • It’s safe to say this would drive me batshit crazy. Seems to be desperately trying to build on an idea that was never fully fleshed? Just a hunch.

  • This sounds very frustrating! I’d still like to get to Ready Player One, but I think I’ll pass on this one. Pop culture references in books almost always feel forced or out of place to me.

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