Armada by Ernest Cline (Book Review)

Armada is written by Ernest Cline, who’s better known for his book, Ready Player One, a best-seller later adapted into a successful film.

This book though, is written in first-person perspective from the point-of-view of American high-school student Zack Lightman, and to a certain extent is a reasonably good young adult sci-fi story. Much more believable and realistic in comparison to Ready Player One.

However, there’s far too many unnecessary pop-culture references, some of which could be considered spoilers for those not familiar with the movies, games, books or TV shows etc. that they reference. Unlike with Ready Player One, I don’t feel that these pop-culture references add any depth or meaning to the story. In Armada they just seem to be thrown-in to show how much pop-culture knowledge is rattling around inside Ernest Cline’s head, and they quickly become tedious and extremely annoying.

I’m not the biggest gamer in the world, but I’m of a generation that can understand enough of what’s going on to follow the concepts. Also FYI I’m old enough to comprehend most of the pop-culture references, unlike a lot of this books likely target audience.

…warning: spoilers ahead…

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Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures Boxset – Cheatc0de by Michael Campling (ARC Review)

The Uprising Box set is a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures. I kindly received an ARC of this huge boxset from author Michael Campling, and am voluntarily choosing to review each of the individual books contained within its 2,381 pages.

Book 8 finally brings us to Michael Campling’s novel Cheatc0de, book one in his Downlode Trust series, and out of the twelve books in the Uprising box set, this is the one which I have been the most eager to read. This is because I am already familiar with most of Mikey’s other books, and was a huge fan of his LitRPG novel Prison Quest, which he co-wrote with Saffron Bryant. Cheatc0de sounds like it could be very similar, and his Downlode Trust novels are the only books of his that I haven’t yet read.

 

The story centres on Hank, a teenager who uses his total immersion Virtual Reality gaming hobby as an escape from an otherwise difficult home life, and his father, Mervin an ex-military man struggling with his past, and the responsibility of raising his son single-handed. After finishing school, Hank straps in to his favourite VR game, hoping for a fun distraction from life. Usually a solo player, he unexpectedly encounters a fellow gamer called Will, who lures him into joining an unsanctioned mission with the promise of lots of easy money.

While sceptical at first, Hank soon warms up to Will as he realises that the two of them really do perform better as a team. However, Will is reluctant to share his secrets, and Hank begins to harbour doubts about his friend’s motives. Unknown to Hank, Mervin joins the game eager to relive his days in the military, and places both his own life and Hank’s in danger. But will the rewards of the game outweigh the risks and consequences for Hank? Can he complete the mission? Will he survive?

 

While this is not technically LitRPG, not like Prison Quest, I rather enjoyed the story. It was fast paced and engaging, and being a non-gamer myself I found the story simple, fairly easy to follow and mostly entertaining. The virtual world appeared realistic and well thought out, and it has a relatively small cast of characters, which I found oddly refreshing.

While technically it is another good novel from Michael Campling, I can only rate this at 4 out of 5 stars as there were quite a number of errors, which is unusual for this author. Also, I struggled initially with Mervin’s chapters as they didn’t quite gel together with the main storyline at first, and it wasn’t until later when he joined the game that it all began to finally ‘click’ with me and make sense. My final issue is the neat and tidy conclusion, which I thought fell a little flat. I was expecting a bit more action or danger, more nervous tension, or just something to give it more of a realistic feel.

That being said, I will be continuing on to read the next book in the series, book 2 The Trust.

 

See also:

The Bottle Stopper – Angeline Trevena

 

Prison Quest: A Sci-Fi LitRPG Adventure (ARC Review)

Cody Milbourne works security for the Vortax Corporation Headquarters. When she discovers her friend and colleague Joseph Salter has been murdered on company property, she is aghast when the Corporate Crimes Unit falsely accuses her of theft, criminal damage, abduction and Joseph’s murder. As a result she faces up to 40 years in prison.

Cody’s new home is actually a virtual world known as Fortress Forty-seven, not just your regular prison. Her only choice is to complete the virtual reality game known as Prison Quest, if she wants to stay alive and have any hope of escaping this nightmare.

 

Having been a fan of some of Michael Campling’s earlier work, I didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to check out his new book, Prison Quest, which he has co-written with fellow fantasy and science fiction author Saffron Bryant. I received a free advanced readers copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Prison Quest – originally titled ‘Fortress 47’ – is a LitRPG novel, a genre which I am not very familiar with. LitRPG is the literary equivalent to role-playing games in which characters must complete quests in order to ‘level up’ or advance throughout the game or story, by acquiring experience points.

 

In this case, Cody must forge alliances, learn skills and complete various quests within the virtual game world called Fortress Forty-seven, a dangerous and unforgiving place. All while seeking the allusive Prison Quest, which may hold the key to her escape from both the game and her prison sentence.

While prior knowledge of RPGs would be beneficial, it is unnecessary as Campling and Bryant have put together a very well-written story, complete with easy to comprehend explanations that do not distract the reader from the graceful flow of the narrative.

Beginning in the Wild West themed town of Firebrand, there is an air of relative safety as characters who are unlucky enough to die, simply regenerate in the town jailhouse. However, for those who dare to really push the game to its limits and leave town, venturing into the wild desert wastelands, they must be willing to pay the ultimate price. For beyond the walls of Firebrand, when you die, you die for real, and not just within the confines of the game, but in real life too.

The book contains a wide-array of interesting characters and creatures including: bit roaches, grit worms, venomous cavelings and androids. With its combination of science fiction, fantasy and Westerns, this book is perfect for gamers, sci-fi fans, fantasy fanatics and also fans of Firefly. At 5 out of 5 stars this is a fast-paced, action packed novel that you won’t want to miss. I’ll definitely be checking out more books in the LitRPG genre after this one.

 

In Jan 2019, Michael Campling and Saffron Bryant re-released an updated and improved version of this book called The Prison Quest.