Flaccid Encounters of the Nerd Kind

I quite enjoyed ‘Ready Player One’ until its third act when I realised I’d been tricked by the author. Having grown up in the 1980s I found myself gleefully distracted by the constant nods to the pop culture of my formative years but once I tired of their overuse I realised the story I was reading was as unremarkable as it was plagiaristic.

I picked up Cline’s second book thinking he obviously wasn’t going to try that one again. How wrong could I be. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.

‘Armada’ reads more like teenage fan fiction than an actual title from a respected publisher. I have to wonder if it clearly states ‘A Novel’ on its cover just to affirm this in case you were wondering.

The story lacks originality at every turn, heavily borrowing ideas from much better works of fiction. The dialogue is as two-dimensional as the characters that speak it. In Cline’s version of Planet Earth, everyone loves everything and anything relating to the pop culture of the 1980s. They listen to it, they play it, they quote it. Ad nauseum.

The story should convey to the reader the poignant gravitas and page-turning excitement of the situations the protagonist finds himself in, especially considering what is at stake. Instead, we are given wooden emotion worthy of a second-tier telenovela and immature characters making lacklustre jokes by echoing lines from superior fiction. I can only assume this is a reflection of how Cline is in his own life and he’s following the old adage ‘write what you know’. Sometimes it almost reads as if the author is using the book as a cathartic exercise to justify his own self-worth. The constant hammering of the mantra “Hey, kids! Weren’t the 80s the coolest!” becomes instantly cringe-worthy before you’ve even finished the first few pages.

If Cline is going to accomplish himself as a writer then he needs to move past the arrested development shown throughout his last two books or at least show some creativity instead of simply pilfering from others.

But at least the cover is aesthetically pleasing, exemplifying innovation. Kudos to Will Staehle for that. Just don’t judge the book by it.