27 October 2015

Morning Chocolate Cake: A Review of Armada, Ernest Cline

I am almost but not completely ready to discuss Armada by Ernest Cline; almost, a few antidotal paragraphs are vital as I procrastinate my reluctance to acknowledge my distain. Thankfully, my fortuitous decision to serve up a slice of chocolate cake with my morning coffee is lulling me into a false sense of sugary safety.

Unaccustomed to October play-off major league baseball, Canada rightly so, decided to whole-heartedly lose it's marbles.  During the 1992 World Series, I witnessed my dear father rise from the depths of our den, walk calmly to the front door, step out into the cold Saskatchewan wind and shout to the heavens "Okay, Blue Jays, Let's Play Ball!". From there, this large, 6 foot four inch tall dad of mine, proceeded to shut the door, retrace his steps, descending down into his sports lair where he watched his team clutch the title. And so it came as a shock that as most Canadians were screaming their roofs off as Jose Baustita threw his bat into infamy in Game 5 against Texas, my parents were seemingly unaware. Like nervous parents across the ages, my folks could not commit to the nail biting intensity that was October, opting to keep the telly off, and the blood pressure low. And this is this girl's attempt to not even discuss the federal election that was so prominently intwined through the Jays fever. So, yes,  the span of months of blog neglect were rightly filled with newsworthy events. Nevertheless it all returns to the fact that I didn't like the book and morning cake really is best served cold.

Ernest Cline, crowned purveyor of 1980s nostalgia rose to the heights of geeky goodness with Ready Player One. An homage to gamer cultural, Ready Player One offers a unique literary opportunity to fall within the clutches of a video game without ever having to play. Addictive enough to distract I recall only the joy of pursuit unable to summon details, depth or characters. A recent review that shines a less than spectacular light upon this first novel has me questioning if Ready Player One was worthy of my passionate recommendations. Did the chase leave me so besotted that I was blind to all else? Having completed Armada months ago, irked beyond a rational state, I question less Cline's writing prowess and more our cultural obsession with nostalgia.

What is of more importance, an author who writes well, or an author who through social media networks displays a lifestyle perpetuated in his/her books that coincidentally enhances the sales? Simply stepping into the arena of Twitter it is obvious that it takes more than written talent to promote a book. My feed is inundated with Andy Weir hugging yet another scientist while Scalzi is documenting a minute by minute account of his existence, to Ernest Cline driving his Delorian across the galaxy saving old Atari video games with George R. R. Martin. While I am not against such campaigns, finding it all quite entertaining, I am beginning to suspect we, the reading public have been duped. 

Armada is the story of a teenage boy who saves the world. With an innate talent for video-games, Zac Lightman spies through his school classroom window a spacecraft that improbably emerged from the very game he obsessively plays. The plot moves along at a maddeningly logical progression exhibiting little in way of surprise. Having either read or viewed this arc countless of times, relishing each new spin on the classic tale, I would have gladly enjoyed myself if I hadn't been drowned in 80s jargon. Every other sentence hallmarks the past, and while that can be highly effective in developing wit, too much becomes saccharine. Do yourself a favour, rent The Last Starfighter and enjoy the plot in it's original conception.