cover image Soda Pop Soldier

Soda Pop Soldier

Nick Cole. Harper Voyager, $14.99 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-06-221022-7

This smart combination of video-game action and stinging dystopian satire is meticulously assembled by actor and author Cole (the Wasteland Saga). A gamer called Perfect Question is fighting desperately to protect ColaCorp’s share of advertising rights in a digital version of the Vietnam War. The same gamer, as the samurai Wu, struggles in a clandestine, brutal fantasy adventure game. In the real world, mysterious forces try to dictate how he’ll play the games; when he doesn’t comply, they attempt to eliminate him, and he’s soon running for his life. Perfect Question realizes that the war must be rigged against his side; Wu figures out that the adventure is based on conflict between the best and worst of human nature. Both games seem unwinnable. As the narrator faces increasingly grotesque characters and outlandish situations, he wonders whether real life has become just another game. In all situations, he manages to be a tough, snarky warrior battling his corrupt society’s worst excesses. This is a cheeky and enjoyable effort from an author to watch. (Aug.)