Lenni Reviews: Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

In this dystopian future, companies hire gamers to battle it out for the rights to advertising space. After my initial hesitation and brief fit of hysteriucal laughter at the thought of eHarmony, Match.com, Christian Mingle, and Farmers Only battling out in a cage match for the right to inundate us with their insipid nonsense (Three-way battle between Papa Johns, Little Caesars, and Dominos? Would CiCi's buffet be an unexpected challenger? Man, I laughed for DAYS!), I started this book with a bit of guilt that I'm not a huge gamer and a healthy load of disbelief this concept would be pulled off in an enjoyable way.

The book is written well. You follow professional gamer PerfectQuestion as he struggles to win for his company, broke, cheating girlfriend, drinking a lot, and at the end of his rope; willing to join an illegal online gaming universe referred to as the Black. Things get out of hand and the online battle for his life spreads into the real world.

By no means is this a 'bad book.' Nick Cole has the writing chops to pull off the gaming action and PerfectQuestion's desperation, so the reading is nice and smooth. Cole's work reminds me of Jeff Somers' work (but Cole is MUCH less depressing). My only complaint perhaps would be it's 100+ pages in before PerfectQuestion is directly threatened. It was cool and all to see PerfectQuestion in action and get to know how his job works and how sick and twisted the Black is, but it seemed to me our protagonist should have met with the main conflict sooner.

Although, I certainly wasn't bored. I was pulled right into the world and loved every second. My hands were twiching for controller buttons and the descriptions left me fiending for some playtime with my consoles. I truly cared about PerfectQuestion, even without knowing his name. I clicked instantly with what Cole is saying about what the anonymity of being online does to people's behavior and how easily the consequences of that behavior can leak into your offline life. I had fun reading this; it was an unexpectedly enjoyable romp. If you're into tech heavy scifi, first person shooters, and the trials of just a normal guy trying to survive, I think you'll enjoy this book.

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