Published by Crown/Archetype on July 14th 2015
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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.