I am not a geek. Definitely not the Dungeons & Dragons-fanboy type of geek (not that there's anything wrong with that!). So if you think Ernest Cline's books are not for you because you don't like video games or science fiction or geeky stuff, give his books a shot. It took a lot of people talking about Ready Player One for me to finally pick it up, and I am so glad I did. It turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time, in spite of the fact that I wasn't familiar with the majority of the pop culture references Cline made in that book. It was, simply put, one of the most purely enjoyable books I have ever read. I am now constantly on the lookout for books that are just fun (but also well-written). Andy Weir's The Martian (another book I really didn't think I would like, but ended up loving) certainly falls into this category, as do Katherine Neville's cult classic from the early 80s, The Eight, Daniel O'Malley's The Rook, Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mystery series, and Gail Carriger's books. But truly fun and enjoyable books are surprisingly hard to come by. You're most likely to find these books in the mystery, science fiction, or fantasy sections, and middle grade is the only "genre" that consistently produces books like this. The main problem seems to be that literary fiction writers and publishers believe good books can't be fun and enjoyable, or have a propulsive narrative. And it's true that well-written books like this are hard to come by, even in genre fiction. That's part of why I was so thrilled to hear that Cline was coming out with a new novel. Armada, coming out this month, hits the same sweet spot as Ready Player One, and I am so pleased that Cline's second effort avoids the sophomore slump. Like Ready Player One, Armada is filled with 80s pop culture, science fiction tropes, adolescent male nerds, and video games. Even as I write this, that sounds like a recipe for my total boredom (with the exception of the 80s pop culture references), but Cline really knows what he is doing. I think part of his secret, besides just being a talented writer, is that he is simply writing about what he loves. You can feel his giddy delight in his subjects, and he is supremely talented as conveying that same feeling to his readers, even if they, like me, don't actually feel passionate about the same things as him. This is almost a magical power, and I really wish other writers could do what Cline does. I will read anything this man writes.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)