Having been given an advance proof copy of this book but the publisher, Century (imprint of Penguin Random House UK), I was asked to give my thoughts by our host here, Rain. How could I refuse an opportunity to share with such a delightful group of readers as the audience here? So strap yourself in for a review of a glorious geeky book and the fanboy joy that it gave me.
But first, me! I’m Kevin. A fashion photographer in the UK – hence the shot of the book in the studio up there. As the review shows you, I’m also a bit of a geek, and proud of it. I’ve been one my entire life, and I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi I grew up watching on the screen. I read a lot too – sometimes slightly different things to our host which is why I’m here (although I think secretly she would rather have been writing the review herself, but the book is mine all mine I tell you!)
Where to start? Armada is a cracking story of a boy about to graduate high school only to have his world turned upside down by, well, not a UFO as such since he definitely identified it – as part of his favourite computer game. The ensuing story delivers all the coming of age staples; friends, lust, and a whole host of relationships. More than that though, it delivers page after page of some of the finest geek writing around.
Cline definitely wears his heart on his sleeve in this book. He doesn’t hide the influences in this story, he shouts them from the rooftop proudly. The quotes and references cover roughly 40 years of geekdom leaving me grinning from ear to ear. And truly they do span the years – everything from The Day The Earth Stood Still to Firefly and probably stuff I’ve forgotten already. It’s comprehensive.
Not just in terms of timespan either, but also the whole gamut of geekery. Gamergeeks no doubt get the red carpet here, but as more of a sci-fi geek I didn’t feel left out. This isn’t something written by someone trying to tap into a demographic or market, it’s authentic. If you think The Big Bang Theory holds that title this makes that show look like Revenge Of The Nerds.
Cline’s attention to detail is sublime. The movies and games that are pinpointed have nuances, they are linked both to each other and the story. They give depth and build a strong connection with the reader. He even references a mixtape throughout the book, and lurking at the back is the inlay for it. I found myself recreating it on Spotify and playing it as I read. The songs are spot on – some inspired choices and it really adds flavour. I’ve got it playing as I write this review in fact.
The writing is spot on. The pace isn’t frantic but moves forward healthily. The breaks are well spaced making for a relaxed experience. The characters will resonate with many a geek, they have a backstory but there are enough blanks to allow the reader to make them more personally relevant.
A glorious homage to geek culture delivered in an entertaining and exciting story. One of the books of the year, I’ll be impressed if I find better.