Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’d been putting off for far too long. I’ve gotten serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It has been a year to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’ve been going Book to the Future!
I loved Ready Player One. I mean, it kinda blew my mind. Not because it was a work of literary genius, but simply because it never occurred to me that (a) the era in which I grew up could be cool and (b) someone would write a virtual reality science fiction thriller that would turn the knowledge of the popular culture of my youth into the crux upon which the freedom of the free world ultimate hinged. KA-POW!
Ernest Cline’s newest novel “Armada” tries to recapture that vibe. So it’s good. Fast paced. Engaging enough and light enough to keep you reading for a few solid hours. And while it’s so not a sequel, it seems like Cline is pulling his worked-for-him-once formula from that same bag of tricks and trying for a second home run. I’m not good at sports analogies, so let’s just push this one a little further and say “it’s a solid hit” –like a three-base run– but probably not out of the park.
In finished “Armada” over a few short days, mostly ploughing through the first half over vacation and then burning through the rest in the weekend after coming home from a relaxing road trip. It was a good summer read: after the weight of my last book, “The Grapes of Wrath” I was looking for something light and fun and Cline delivered.
Without giving too much away, here’s the gist of the plot: teenager learns that his favorite video game is actually a military training simulator for an impending alien invasion, is whisked away by a secret government organization, and through an extensive knowledge of classic rock, late 20th century science fiction, and of course video games saves the world.
“Armada” knows it owes homage to similarly plotted stories, like “Enders Game” and “The Last Starfighter” and tips its hat through character exposition to the same. But Cline has extended the trope a little further, added a broken father-son relationship (that may slip through the healing process a little too smoothly given the context) and mixes in a few extra hints of angsty-slash-horny teenage relationship monologuing that makes this modern update a little more aligned with a casual read than the weighty, timeless epics it’s both emulating and quoting.
But it was a lot of fun, and if you loved “Ready Player One”, you’ll probably like this follow up just fine.