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Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole
Cover Artist: Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Harper Voyager Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062210227
Date: 12 August 2014 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In the underbelly of New York City, a young man tries to eke out a living. PerfectQuestion is a hired gun. He is an employee of a corporation fighting for ad space. He is good at what he does, but his side is against the wall.

He works for ColaCorp in the fight for ad space against WonderSoft. The battlefield is a virtual world similar in some respects to some of today's top shooters. His pay is dependent upon wins and special bonuses earned during play. With a string of losses, Perfect's pay isn't enough to get by on.

The money problems are also having a toll on his relationship. His girlfriend doesn't truly understand his job. In order to make rent, Perfect will have to try something different, something illegal. But the Black Market games are there for people who need extra money or have a special kink they can't experience elsewhere. Perfect will fight the sickos and the other gamers for a prize big enough to save his relationship, or so he thinks.

Entering the game, he finds more than he bargained for, but the bonuses are hard to find, and his path seems to be taking him away from any chance to win. The goal will change as will his understanding of the world.

Soda Pop Soldier is similar to the novelizations of games that are currently published. It is not a game novelization because the action is taking place on three levels. There is Perfect's real life, his ColaCorp fights, and the action in black game. The ColaCorp battles are pretty straight forward battle scenes where Perfect tries to win missions with his fellow employees. The black world has action and puzzles, similar to Elder Scrolls. His real life ends up combining the two.

I wasn't a hundred percent confident in this novel when I picked it up. I was interested in the concept and wanted to see how the author pulled it off. Cole uses quick paced action and pop culture references to keep it interesting. The main character, PerfectQuestion, is flawed, but that makes the plot move forward. If he was constantly winning through skill, the story would be dull.

The story is told in the first person. As I noted earlier, there are three settings one real life and two virtual. I was actually surprised at the interface that is used to play the games. I expected something much more advanced. The tech available to people in contrast is very sophisticated, the exploration of the real world setting is just as interesting as those developed in the virtual settings.

Gamers and action adventure fans will find something to like here. I devoured this book over the course of one day. I might have finished earlier, but work got in the way.

Our Readers Respond

From: Nick Cole:
Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you.

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