I was seriously concerned that I would get more of the same in 'Armada' that I had 'Ready Player One'. I was sort've justified, but that doesn't mean that 'Armada' doesn't have a lot to offer.
Zack Lightman is obsessed with video games, particularly Armada, a game where one pilots fighter ships in space to defend Earth from an alien invasion. Unfortunately, its more than a game. Zack becomes aware of a conspiracy theory that stretches over decades that hints that video games, movies, novels, and other pop culture has been slowly conditioning humanity to accept and fight back against an authentic alien invasion. The primary recruitment tool for this resistance? Armada.
Much like 'Ready Player One', Cline leans heavily upon nostalgia and wish-fulfillment to round out his story about the somewhat troubled Lightman's experience as he is transformed from misfit high school student to one of the top pilots of Earth's defense. Zach has absorbed 80s pop culture from his obsessive perusal of his late father's game & tape collections, and quotes them often. The story is aware of its debt to previous works but that acknowledgement wasn't enough to keep me outside of the story. I felt immersed in 'Ready Player One', but that wasn't the case here.
This was a solid pop sf novel, clear beginning, middle, and end, but it never got out of the shadow of its influences.