Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First things first: is it as good as Ready Player One? That's kind of a loaded question. I can answer it by saying this is different from Ready Player One. While still definitely science fiction, Armada is firmly rooted in the present (well, 2015, when it was published), whereas Ready Player One exists in a mythical near-future. If you like your sci-fi farther away than the here and now, then no, you probably won't enjoy Armada as much as you enjoyed Ready Player One.
Putting Armada in the "real world" (so to speak) does allow for some great additional pop culture references that wouldn't have otherwise made it in. Pop culture and geeky stuff is one of the things Ernest Cline excels at, so he's doing us all a favor by adding some more. Where Ready Player One had a heavy 80s nostalgia going on, Armada gives us that, some mid-70s nostalgia like Star Wars, and then some more contemporary stuff like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, plus some additional genres -- meaning, we're not just dealing with video game-type nostalgia here, we're dealing with science fiction across movies and games, alien invasions like Close Encounters, Contact, and (of course) Independence Day.
Armada is pretty action-oriented; indeed, most of the major plot events take place over the course of just a few hours, rather days or months. Additionally, if it's hard for you to visualize some things like spaceship cockpits, aerial maneuvers, and fighting techniques (like it is for me), you may start to glaze over (like I did) when Cline's text gets weighed down by his own technical prowess. Even so, I didn't stop reading (finished it in 3 days).
Other possible "cons" -- yes, it is a coming of age story of sorts. So if you don't like reading about teenage white boys attempting to figure out life, you won't like this; thankfully, that aspect is neither forced nor the focus of the story, otherwise my patience would have been spent. And it's definitely a story with some "daddy issues," which Cline's protagonist calls out right away. In fact, he acknowledges a couple of tropes right out of the gate, and some of them even get subverted a bit, which I always appreciate. But "daddy issues" also have their place of honor in most sci-fi canons, so it's not out of place in Armada either.
Last but not least, these are teenage boys, and they speak like teenage boys, most of which I found both realistic and pretty amusing. And possibly indicative that I might also speak like a teenage boy.
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