Size Doesn’t Matter (186): Armada; Genuine Fraud

Size Doesn’t Matter (186): Armada; Genuine FraudArmada by Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Length: 11 hrs, 58 mins
Published by Random House Audio on July 14, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Back in 2015, I tried to read Armada ARC I had from BEA, and I DNFed. Nevertheless, I procured the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, because hey that will make it better and also I’m a stubborn motherfucker. Wheaton made it better, in that I made it to the end, but Armada‘s boring and derivative from opening to ending.

Zack Lightman’s a nerd, but he’s edgy. He punches people when he’s not playing video games at the expense of his school work! YEAH, PUNCHING. He’s the nerd every nerd boy wants to be (he even had a girlfriend once in high school!!), even before the day aliens invade and he is selected to be part of the military and fight them off with his leet gaming skillz!!!!

So yeah, Armada‘s about a gamer with no real plan for his life who becomes a massive success solely by being a gamer. That’s fine I guess if this sort of really shallow wish fulfillment works for you, but it’s not particularly realistic or compelling. Maybe if Zack had been particularly funny or interesting, this weak plot could have worked, but he’s not.

You know how Ready Player One has endless references to video games and movies from the 80s? Armada tries to use that formula again, only without actually having a clever plot. It’s intentially derivative; absolutely everything is a reference to some bit of science fiction, either classic or esoteric. Some, like choosing to have the aliens display a swastika on Jupiter’s moon to get humanity’s notice, a reference to an existing film according to the book, are problematic. Whether it’s a reference or not, that’s a choice, and it’s not a good one imo.

Plus, there are the “this was authored by a cishet white dude” moments. There are a few minutes dedicated, in Zack’s POV mind you, to how incredibly hot his mom is. It straight up uses the word “oedipal,” which is absolutely disgusting and completely not relevant to anything other than grossing me the fuck out. It felt like I’d stumbled into a creepy fan fic for a moment. And Zack’s love interest, who is older than him by an unknown number of years (she’s probably over 21, and she was working as a programmer) asks how old he is and then expresses disappointment that he’s just turned 18 since she enjoys “robbing the cradle.” Sure, it’s probably a joke, but again gross and unnecessary. Also, why would a grown ass woman want to date a high school boy? That’s such an unrealistic fantasy once again. Everyone in the book pairs off, too; the only props go to the fact that there’s also an m/m pairing.

Don’t bother with this one, unless you really fucking love sci fi references. That’s literally the only thing this book has going for it imo.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (186): Armada; Genuine FraudGenuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 6 hrs, 43 mins
Published by Listening Library on September 5, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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From the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel--the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Linked only by also being quite cinematic is E. Lockhart’s Genuine Fraud. I wasn’t really all that interested, considering that I had mixed feelings about We Were Liars, which everyone else thought was the best ever, and a recent backlist read of Fly on the Wall, one of the worst (and weirdest) books I’ve ever read. Still, Lockhart’s thrillers get a lot of buzz, and I was curious so obviously I decided to audiobook it. No regrets. I prefer Genuine Fraud to We Were Liars for what that’s worth.

As per usual with most mysteries, I didn’t connect to the characters. Genuine Fraud kept my attention consistently because batshit/creepy shit was constantly happening, but I didn’t have any sort of investment in Imogen or Jules. When horrible stuff happened, I’d cringe at the brutal, graphic details, but I wouldn’t be sad in any way.

Keep in mind that I’ve never actually seen the former, but Genuine Fraud seemed like View Spoiler ». It’s kind of twisty, although much of it seemed obvious from the start View Spoiler »? It’s made both more and less twisty and also just more convoluted by being told completely out of order. It opens with Chapter 18, which had me double checking that my audio track list wasn’t fucked up.

I’m really not too sure what to say about this one because basically everything seems like it could be a spoiler. It was fun and dark. Likely of more appeal to plot/twist readers than character readers. The audiobook is great; kudos to Rebecca Soler and Listening Library. Because of the lack of emotional connection, I can already tell this one won’t stick with me, but I’m glad I listened to it.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

4 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (186): Armada; Genuine Fraud”

  1. lenore says:

    Well, Armada doesn’t really fit on my shelf anyway ….
    lenore recently posted…My Awesome Reads of 2016My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Pretty sure I told you to ditch that one when I was up there. But apparently I have to actually finish them for you to believe me? :'(

  2. Oh, Armada.

    I really LOVED Ready Player One, and I had such high hopes for this one, but you’ve got it pegged:

    – Plot? Seen it.
    – Characters? Horrible
    – Writing? Just sad, really?
    – Humor? Stupid in a bad way.

    Now Cline’s got 1/2, and I expect a stellar book for him next or I’m done.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Like, I love references to pop culture MORE than the next person, I think I can pretty safely say, but there needs to be more than just that. He did a great job with them in RPO because they just added to the plot. There wasn’t really a plot here, just endless references.

      The writing I couldn’t judge as well because I listened to the audio, but I certainly wasn’t impressed, and I will forever wonder why he thought it was a good idea to describe the mother like that.

      There just really wasn’t anything admirable here at all. It’s a gamer boy fantasy with zero depth to it. A cheap attempt to recreate why RPO worked.

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