Soda Pop Soldier
by Nick Cole
Harper Voyager, 2014
$4.99; 368 pages
Nick Cole describes this book as "Ready Player One meets Call of Duty". I would wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. I would also recommend this book, at least to anyone with the same kind of nerdy interests I have. War, politics, videogames, and applied psychology all can be found here, along with a droll sense of humor and a passel of pop-culture references.
I had been looking for this book for months. I know I could have bought it anytime on Amazon, but I like trolling bookstores. The day I picked this up I also found two other books I had been looking for. It is really about the thrill of the chase, and the joy of an unexpected find. Plus, I do love the smell of slowly oxidizing paper.
Perhaps that kind of anachronism is what endears this novel to me. PerfectQuestion, the online alias of John Saxon, also has an unusual fondness for things that came from an entirely different world than the one he lives in. Given how grim that world is, I can't say that I blame him. His world is full of many clever things, but few beautiful ones.
That link to the past also grounds him. For a guy with not a whole lot going for him, Saxon has a lot of integrity. Someone better adapted to his dark future would likely be a worse man for it. Sure, he has the typical weaknesses of men who like to fight for a living, wine and women, but as Chesterton said, those are at least the sins of men instead of the sins of devils.
That moral realism is part of what I enjoy so much about Soda Pop Soldier. There are other books that explore a similar universe, but this one has a special flavor all its own.