Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
First Published: 2015

So what do you once you’ve turned the final page of a book you really loved? If you’re anything like me the answer might be:

  1. Feel a little sad that such a wonderful reading experience has come to an end.
  2. Start recommending said book to everyone you know.
  3. Find out if the author has published anything else and if so, buy it.

So you can imagine my glee when I discovered that, conveniently, I had finished Ernest Clines’ superb first novel, Ready Player One, just 3 days before his second book, Armada, was due to be published. Talk about perfect timing! Ready Player One may have presented a dystopian vision of the not-too-distant future but as far as reading experiences go, it was geek nirvana, laden as it was with so many contextually-justified references to the games, technology and pop-culture of the 1980s and 90s. Just like that novel’s protagonist, Wade, I’d been reluctant to logout of the enjoyably escapist virtual world laid out before me. But with Armada touted as offering a similarly pop-culture savvy experience to its predecessor it sounded like I wouldn’t be logged out for long. While Cline’s debut imagined the possibilities and the Pitfalls (Pitfall! Get it?) of a MMORPG style online world, Armada looks to the skies, and beyond: it’s an alien invasion narrative that promised to draw on every space shoot-em-up you’ve ever played and to offer a different context for all the sci-fi classic movies with which I grew up.

That all sounded so promising, and so much fun. You should never judge a book by it cover, of course, but it looked oh so promising too: what a great jacket design!

Armada book cover

Armada book cover

But…. while I can’t deny it was fun, overall, I have to admit I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so disappointed by a novel. I really wanted to like Armada but, though it does have some good moments, compared to the genius of Ready Player One, it just felt flat, forced and predictable. Son, I am disappoint.

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

What follows is a bit more on the novels’s themes as well as what I liked and the somewhat longer list of what I didn’t like about Armada. This is the kind of book that it’s hard to discuss without mentioning some key plot points so Rodimus is here to warn you that there may be one or two spoilers ahead.

Continue reading

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Robo Reads

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
First Published: 2011

I’m not sure this should really count as a fully fledged Robo Read but I’m going to include it under the heading anyway. Reasons? Well, the novel does include one scene-stealing giant robot moment, and although artificial intelligence isn’t really its focus, Ready Player One certainly explores our relationship with technology and the potential of on-line / virtual lives. Indeed, in that respect Cline’s book rather put me in mind of John Scalzi’s Lock In, a great novel that was the focus of my very first Robo Reads book review on this blog. Scalzi is actually name-checked in Cline’s work and has himself sung its praises, describing the book as a “nerdgasm.”

It’s a pretty accurate description. While its “Robo Reads” credentials may be debatable, there is no doubt that Ready Player One fully deserves the accolade of “Geek Lit Classic.” It’s not without it flaws but these are more than compensated by an overall ride that manages to combine some all-too-grimly-plausible near future dystopian world building with a gleefully referential nostalgic pop-cultural odyssey that had me grinning from ear. You probably need to be a bit of a gamer and to have some affection for the 80s to get the most out of this novel but if you fit those bills and haven’t read Cline’s debut novel already I highly recommend doing so now, or at least before Stephen Spielberg’s film version of it comes out. So, you’ve got just under a year and half, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge considering this is the kind of book I struggled to put down and devoured in just a couple of sittings.

Continue reading

Let’s talk about: Annoying Robots!

So, you don’t need to have read many of the posts we publish here on AddAltMode to get the impression that in this little corner of the internet robots are generally regarded a pretty favourably. But although robots are frequently awesome, it is a truth universally acknowledged that when robots aren’t awesome they’re often incredibly, infuriatingly, even offensively annoying!

So what makes for an annoying robot? Well, there are tons of listicles already out there along the lines of “The Top Ten most annoying robots in popular culture” so I’m not going to churn out another of those. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the various lists on this topic, it’s that there’s surprisingly little overlap between them. Annoyingness, it seems, can be quite a subjective quality. So today I’m going to look at a few robots who are often accused of being annoying. I’ll be asking what they’ve done to deserve that label and whether they really deserve it.

Bring forward the accused! These bots are on trial accused of being too annoying. Let the jury consider the evidence and decide their verdict.

Stock photo by  creationc from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1409592

Health warning! If you’re easily wound up you may wish to stop reading now. While there are a few bots out there I may defend from over-harsh judgments, this post contains at least two characters for whom the label “annoying” doesn’t begin to cover it – although I could do with a label of some sort to stick over their robot mouths!

Continue reading

Video Game Review: Double Dragon Neon

Skullmageddon's goons abduct Marian.

Skullmageddon’s goons abduct Marian.

Last december, at the start of the *snort* Primary Gifting Period, I was generously given Double Dragon Neon by my brother. It is, of course, a remake of the classic 80s beat-’em-up Double Dragon.

Billy Lee sets out to rescue Marian

This vehicle must be a time machine, since it came directly from 1987.

The plot goes thus: The villainous magical skeleton Skullmageddon has kidnapped Marian, girlfriend of martial artist Billy Lee, who (aided by his brother Jimmy if 2 players are available) must slap, kick and wrestle through Skullmageddon’s army of goons to rescue her. Continue reading