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Monday, July 30, 2018

SODA POP SOLDIER by Nick Cole

Call of Duty meets Diablo in this fast-paced, action-packed LitRPG novel from the author of GALAXY'S EDGE.

Gamer PerfectQuestion fights for ColaCorp in WarWorld, an online combat sport arena where mega-corporations field entire armies in the battle for real world global advertising-space dominance. Within the immense virtual battlefield, players and bots are high-tech grunts, using drop-ships and state-of-the-art weaponry to wipe each other out.

But times are tough and the rent is due, and when players need extra dough, there's always the Black, an illegal open source tournament where the sick and twisted desires of the future are given free rein in the Wastehavens, a gothic dungeon fantasy world.

And all too soon, the real and virtual worlds collide when PerfectQuestion refuses to become the tool of a mad man intent on hacking the global economy for himself.

Soda Pop Soldier is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. A Castalia House paperback will be available from Castalia Books Direct later today.

From the reviews:
  • I half-expected a light-hearted romp through modern video games. What I got was something completely different. Something telling about how many of us live our lives online and the anonymity that we expect.... Throughout it all, we see the real world, but in many ways Cole presents this as almost more fantastic and ridiculous than the online worlds that PerfectQuestion plays in. There are scientific advancements that take humans to other planets and planes that seemingly traverse around the world without stopping, but most of that is unavailable to the average person. The more the book explores those areas – the areas inhabited by the rich and powerful – the more the reader finds themselves in foreign territory. In many ways PerfectQuestion is more at home in the war and fantasy of his online games than in the real world.
  • This is a seriously well-crafted book, full of twists, loads of pop culture references, and a remarkable treatise on integrity, conviction, good versus evil, hero versus villain and several other themes. He picks up on everything that was (and is) fun about gaming, problem-solving and the creativity and story-telling that great games AND books have in common, and lectures in a good way about the joy of reading. This is a great story. If you played Pong and other games up to the current genre of first-person shooters, and enjoy a good story, with characters that you can identify with, buy this book. Read it. Share it. If you aren't a gamer, but rather a well read bookworm, buy this book. Lose yourself in it, and enjoy something that is exceptional.
  • This book blew me away. I went into it expecting little, because it's from an indie publisher. Big mistake. It feels like a blend between Catcher In The Rye, Blade Runner, and Warhammer 40K. It started off a bit slow and I wasn't sure where it was going, but it morphs into a compelling story that I could not get enough of. I'd think about this book while I was working, waiting to get home. I went out and bought three more of his books just so I'd have some ready when I finished this one.
  • I love Cole's work and SPS is probably my favorite one to date. 
  • It's in my top ten favorite novels of all time, and it's just wonderfully good.
This book is an absolute must-read for any gamer. People not unreasonably tend to think of Nick Cole as a pulp author due to the success of Galaxy's Edge, but he is actually one of the better science fiction authors around, and there is no one currently writing who is more adept at playing on the emotions of the reader.

LitRPG has been around since Joel Rosenberg created it in Guardians of the Flame; my abortive first attempt at a novel was a Guardians imitation that very cleverly utilized Traveller instead of D&D. But the invention of the MMO and subsequent blurring of reality and game reality in the real world has transformed and popularized the genre, and Soda Pop Soldier represents the very best of it. If you haven't read it, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy and do so.

Castalia House will also be publishing the next two books in the Soda Pop Soldier series.

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23 Comments:

Blogger McChuck July 30, 2018 5:58 AM  

Also check out "MogWorld", by Yahtzee Croshaw. Starring Jim the unwilling revenant.

Blogger wreckage July 30, 2018 6:32 AM  

Personally I think Nick Cole's trademark is just how damn sorcerous-good he is at f*ing with your emotions. I actually am not super-keen on how loose he plays it with formal English at times, there are writers whose prose I like more; but by all that's holy the guy can pull you into the emotional content of the story like nobody else, play you hard and make you like it.

For example, one of his stories has a special-needs full-grown kid who is dealing with the nightmares of the world by BEING BATMAN. Complete with WalMart costume. And like the jaded gen-Xer I am, I thought "Oh, this is going to be wince-inducing. C'mon."

About an hour later I was nearly in tears. I loved the kid. I wanted to hug the kid and tell him how brave he was being and how proud I was of him.

Nick Cole is like a boxer with a dead-hard right cross. He can play a trope straight, absolutely straight, and still put you on the mat wondering what the hell just happened, then you slowly realize that punch you knew was coming, that you thought only a sucker would get caught by, has just ended you.

Blogger wreckage July 30, 2018 6:34 AM  

That and you know he's not above kicking you in the balls if the ref isn't watching.
Emotionally speaking.
I'm sure he's a fine and honourable sportsman.
Mostly sure.

Blogger wreckage July 30, 2018 6:38 AM  

*edit: right hook is probably the better analogy.

Blogger VD July 30, 2018 6:42 AM  

Yeah, one of the few perfect endings I've ever read is his hugely underrated THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNEW IT. It's insane, it's artificial, and it perfectly encapsulates what Twenty One Pilots meant when they wrote "don't trust a perfect person and don't trust a song that's flawless." Because that ending is flawless.

Nick could be great, but instead he's chosen to be very good and incredibly popular. Given the realities of today's market and the massively material advantages of the latter option, it's impossible to fault his decision.

Blogger Cataline Sergius July 30, 2018 7:26 AM  

The two books I've read in this series blow Ready Player One so far out of the water, you can't see ocean anymore.

Blogger Cataline Sergius July 30, 2018 7:28 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Cataline Sergius July 30, 2018 7:30 AM  

@5 VD

Oh that ending was awesome.

How the hell did he manage to create that much sympathy for zombies? I could here the freaking violin music. That one was up there with Grave of the Fireflies.

I can strongly recommend the audio book BTW.

Blogger CarpeOro July 30, 2018 7:54 AM  

I don't know. If Galaxy's Edge is pulp, it is certainly two cuts above most of the pulp being produced today. Ctrl+Alt+Revolt! is also some very well done writing. I've been thinking about circling back to this work at some point. Already 6 books in to Galaxy's Edge though and will probably want to catch up on that first.

Blogger John S July 30, 2018 8:25 AM  


I can strongly recommend the audio book BTW.


Agreed. The audiobook was excellent. I'm a fan of Nick's Wyrd series. It's sort of a mix of his other stuff, Dark Tower, alternate realities merging style. It's got it all: zombies, terminators, Lovecraftian horrors lurking loudly in the night.

The kid who copes with stress with the batman outfit was in the 2nd book in the series, if I recall correctly.

It's been pretty damn entertaining so far, waiting for the next book Nick.

Blogger tuberman July 30, 2018 8:36 AM  

Yeah well, now I;m going to have to read this book...soon.

Blogger David The Good July 30, 2018 8:40 AM  

I'm not a gamer and I think Soda Pop Soldier is fantastic. Great story, engaging right through.

Blogger Peter Gent July 30, 2018 8:46 AM  

Nick Cole is an example of why Castalia House will become a great success and major publisher. He writes great stories with engaging and often unforgettable characters. The Wasteland series is one of my favorites of all time and shows how he successfully takes an idea from existing culture/literature (The Old Man and the Sea) and makes it his own in an entirely different setting. I also appreciate his underlying Christian foundations. I wish him and Castalia House continued success hope he/they never lose his/their way.

Blogger M. Bibliophile July 30, 2018 8:54 AM  

Nick's description of the special needs kid actually made me put that one down: I've got one of my own and he got it exactly right, especially the dynamic between Father and son. I'll pick it up again someday, but for now I'll just go hug my daughter.

As for Soda Pop Soldier, this ones been sitting on my wish list since I finished Ctrl+Alt+Revolt! and I am happy to say I grabbed it without a second thought.

Oh, and Vox, you aren't kidding about the ending of The End Of The World As We Knew It. Masterful.

Blogger Dr. J July 30, 2018 10:05 AM  

Nick could be great, but instead he's chosen to be very good and incredibly popular.

Galaxy's Edge certainly has some terrific moments, and it might one day overshadow the franchise it set out to emulate/fix. You can tell which parts belong to Cole. He has a certain cadence to his writing when he gets going. Imperator, which poses the question - "what if Darth Vader's origin story was actually interesting" - is great.

I'm excited that Nick is going to be doing more work with Castalia. Still not tired of the winning.

Vox, you don't get enough credit for fighting this battle - thanks to you, the Arkhaven and Castalia teams and the support of the VFM.

To the commentor asking Vox for solutions to Western decline - he's showing you the answers every day. Take note.

Blogger Resident Moron™ July 30, 2018 10:22 AM  

This is great news.

Excalibur Castalia! Excalibur!

Blogger wreckage July 30, 2018 10:35 AM  

In the pop culture war, it's far more important to be very good and very prolific than to be perfect. It's an immensely good thing to have great writers banging out good, bulk entertainment. It means the masses aren't stuck with low-quality swill from deviants.

Blogger Jon D. July 30, 2018 10:43 AM  

Great book. High recommendation.

Blogger Avalanche July 30, 2018 11:14 AM  

Okay, okay, I bought it and End of the World... Geez! How am I EVER going to get everything done if I keep stopping to read amazing books?! (At least I'm taking friends to the range to day to 'throw lead down the alley'! (First time for him, second for her.)

Blogger Amos Bellomy July 30, 2018 11:47 AM  

Soda Pop Soldier wasn't my favorite book by Cole but it is excellent.

Blogger Amos Bellomy July 30, 2018 11:49 AM  

I thought his Wasteland Saga was a masterpiece. The Savage Boy in particular had an extraordinary brutality to it yet somehow managed to avoid slipping into total despair and nihilism.

He is one of the most superversive soldiers currently writing today.

Blogger Last Redoubt July 30, 2018 1:30 PM  

I may catch some flack, but as much as I like CTRL-ALT-REVOLT it may be his weakest book for me.

The Wyrd books I blazed through and am waiting to throw him more money for.

Ditto Galaxy's Edge.

Haven't read "End of the world" but the Wasteland saga.... damn. Just... damn.

And Soda Pop Soldier is what Snow Crash should have been. Tighter, less self-aware, and will hold up far better beyond the first "ha, love the reference" reading.

Blogger maniacprovost July 30, 2018 2:25 PM  

I like Nick Cole. Wasn't actually a fan of the end of the end of the world as we know it, but it was impactful.

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