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.


New print editions

In case you’re interested, we’ve got THREE new print editions out this week that may be of interest.

First is CHUCK DIXON’S AVALON #1: THE STREET RULES, which is available in a gold logo edition for $2.99. We very nearly got it out as fast as the digital version thanks to our new production process, which cuts 4-5 days off the previous pre-print routine. This means that all of our new print editions will only be available on Castalia Books Direct for a week or two, before they eventually show up on Amazon.

Second is the brilliant SUPERLUMINARY trilogy by John C. Wright. It contains The Lords of Creation, The Space Vampires, and The World Armada and is a 482-page paperback. Although it retails for $27.99, we’re able to offer it at $19.99.

And third is Vol. II of my Collected Columns. Crisis & Conceit 2006-2009 is a 756-page hardcover that is available for 34.99.


SUPERLUMINARY: The World Armada

Castalia House is extremely pleased to announce that SUPERLUMINARY: THE WORLD ARMADA by John C. Wright is now available for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Although the Lords of Creation survived the awesome onslaught of the world-killing space vampires, there is nowhere in the lifeless galaxy that they can hope to hide their planets and people forever. How can they hope to destroy what is already dead?

The vampiric necroforms are a massive empire of anti-life, terrible beyond all imagining, ruling a vast network of dead stars and planets they have drained of all life. Aeneas, the Emperor of Man, realizes that if the human race is going to survive, he is going to have to find a way to re-seed the entire galaxy with life while burning down the interstellar undead empire with the precious light it cannot bear. And not only does Aeneas have to do the impossible, he is going to have to do it while keeping a wary eye out for the ruthless betrayer at his back.


SUPERLUMINARY is the latest and most brilliant creation of science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright, the Dragon-award winning author of THE UNWITHERING REALM, THE GOLDEN AGE, MOTH & COBWEB, and AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND. THE WORLD ARMADA is the third and final book in the trilogy.

Rather like Awake in the Night Land, you cannot appreciate the full brilliance of Superluminary until you have read the whole thing and see how John C. Wright manages to pull the whole thing together on multiple levels. In my opinion, with Superluminary, John C. Wright firmly establishes himself as the greatest science fiction writer of his generation and one of the all-time greats. It’s the combination of brilliance, originality, and consistency that serves to elevate him beyond the likes of Neal Stephenson and China Mieville, both of whom are indubitably great SF writers, but unlike Mr. Wright, they simply do not manage to scale the literary heights again and again with such magnificent reliability.

I initially thought Superluminary was over-the-top fun, John C. Wright amusing himself by seeing if he could go the notorious Worldkiller one better. Then, when I reached the part about why faster-than-light travel is a very bad idea and why there has been such a mysterious lack of alien contact with the solar system, I realized that it was something deeper and darker than that. But not until finishing THE WORLD ARMADA did I grasp just how uniquely astounding is the work as a whole. And it is not a coincidence that every single one of the 41 reviews for the first two books in the series rate them both 5 stars.

From the earlier reviews:

  • Grand design space opera turned up to 11! For everyone who liked The Golden Age but thought it might have been just a bit too talky, this has the same over the top world building but starts off with the main character’s assassination…and then things start to get really wild.
  • What an amazing mind to think up this story (with all its intricate and entangled details) and then make it understandable!
  • Seriously, WAR DYSONS? I didn’t think he could do it. I didn’t think Mr Wright could take the already delightfully extravagant story begun in The Lords of Creation and make it bigger and wilder…. Oh ye of little faith, how wrong I was.
  • Spectacular classic space opera. If you know your classical SciFi and loved the family politics of Nine Princes in Amber, the weird super science of The World of Null-A, the immense galactic war of the Lensmen series, then you need to buy and read this book right away. 
  • His best work since Awake in the Night Land.

Heretics now in audio

Bishop Thomas Cranberry finds himself at a loss when he is confronted by a thief and realizes some disturbing truths about himself. The experience sends him in search of the men who are increasingly absent from the Church, who find themselves at a loss in a world that has gone increasingly feral, and who feel that they have nowhere to go and no one to whom they can turn for support. In listening to them and attempting to understand their plight, he finds an unexpected mission.

The Heretics of St. Possenti is for listeners who want the backstory of the story and for those who want to know how one inspired man can make a difference in a fallen world. It is a novel for those who need inspiration to get them though the day and those who look for unusual ways to accomplish the mission. It is for people who understand and respect the old ways but know that sometimes a seed cannot grow without splitting the pavement.

Narrated by Wade Schoenemann The Heretics of St. Possenti is 12 hours and 2 minutes long.


AUDIOBOOK: The Missionaries

This may very well be the greatest audiobook ever produced. I’m not kidding. It’s right up there with Douglas Adams reading his own The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Owen Stanley’s satirical novel is brilliant, of course, alternating between darkly and ridiculously funny, but Gabrielle Miller’s narration, in her unique Australian accent, takes it to a new level of hilarity. I guarantee the way she does Roger Fletcher’s sneering laugh will crack you up, and her effortless switching between the roughneck and posh accents is spot-on.

And if you think you recognize the voice, let’s just say that you do and leave it at that.

THE MISSIONARIES is six hours and 41 minutes. You will not want to miss it. It’s that good.


SUPERLUMINARY: The Space Vampires


Castalia House is very pleased to announce the publication of Superluminary: The Space Vampires by science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright.

The Lords of Creation have learned that although they rule the solar system with their god-like scientific knowledge, there are even more powerful forces to be feared lurking out in the dark depths of space.

The vampiric necroforms are a massive empire of anti-life, terrible beyond all imagining, ruling a vast network of dead stars and planets they have drained of all life. And at last they have come to the Nine Worlds, seeking to destroy the last refuge of living things to be found in all the dying universe. But how can the Lords of Creation even hope to stop the nightmarish undead monstrosities when they are bitterly divided by pride, jealousy, and mutual suspicion?

SUPERLUMINARY is the latest and most outrageous creation of science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright, the Dragon-award winning author of THE UNWITHERING REALM, THE GOLDEN AGE, MOTH & COBWEB, and AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND. THE SPACE VAMPIRES is the second book in the series.

SUPERLUMINARY is arguably John C. Wright’s darkest, most mind-boggling work to date. It’s spectacular space opera on the very grandest scale, so grand that no description can possibly do it justice. It simply has to be read in order to be believed. No one writing in science fiction today thinks bigger or does it better.

From the reviews of Superluminary: The Lords of Creation:

  • Space opera on a Grandmaster scale. This is an easily read story, with grand science concepts and speculation, and a great deal of human nature on display. I recommend it for any young man over the age of nine, who wants to discover just what’s larger and more powerful than a Death Star (hint: think big, no, … BIG).
  • No living writer has captured the spirit of E. E. Doc Smith like J. C. Wright. I’ve heard it said that Wright is the greatest living Science Fiction author. Perhaps he is. But J. C. Wright is far and away the greatest pulp author publishing today.
  • Another masterpiece by Wright. John C. Wright’s books expand the imagination like no other author in the field. Just when you think you know where his story is going he takes a hard turn, and then again. This book does so every chapter, and never lets up the gas. A ton of fun.
  • I’ve been waiting for years for John C. Wright to write a new space epic better than his Golden Age trilogy and I think this is it! If you like Wright’s Awake in the Night Land, get this. In science fiction, Wright is peerless.
  • JCW ramps the pace up to eleven. The Lords of Creation is an explosive tale of space travel, family intrigue, assasination, nanobot resurrection, life force, death force, and forbidden knowledge of the power to create and destroy. Highly recommend.

TURNED EARTH by David the Good

You have no idea how many ways to kill you are lurking in the little laboratory of mass destruction known as your neighbor’s garden.

Gardening is just a hobby for most – but for some, it’s a matter of life and death. 

Who keeps killing soil scientists and agriculture industry executives around the world? If you dare to ask, you may end up as the next corpse left to serve as garden compost. When gardener Jack Broccoli and his boss are targeted by a radical farming cult, Jack’s entire life is turned upside-down as he’s forced into a terrifying world of international agro-industrial intrigue. 

TURNED EARTH is a frighteningly funny novel by master gardener David The Good and the first in the Jack Broccoli series of gardening thrillers.

This is one of those books you have to read to believe that it’s real. Yes, it’s a gardening thriller, and somehow, inexplicably, the concept actually works. Also, it appears that gardeners have considerably more ways to kill you than ninjas, hit men, and the U.S. Marine Corps combined. I am now officially terrified of all those little blue-haired women who spend their days laboring painstakingly over their well-tended laboratories of mass destruction.

From the first review of TURNED EARTH: A Jack Broccoli novel:

  • This might the world’s first garden thriller ever to be published. Imagine Mel Bartholomew meets Liam Neeson as written by a graft of Douglas Adams and Dave Barry, and lyrics by David Byrne, if it had lyrics. You aren’t going to read the secrets of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but you will be asking yourself “How did I get here?” and “That’s not my house” which is more of a statement than question.

Wardogs Inc. #2: Hunter Killer

All war is murder for profit.

Some corporations are just more open about it.

WARDOGS INCORPORATED is one of the largest and most professional mercenary corporations operating in the Kantillon subsector. If you need a bodyguard, an assassination team, or an armored cavalry regiment complete with air support, WARDOGS Inc. can provide it for you… for a very steep price.

Fresh from the nuclear-scarred battlefields of Ulixis, Tommy Falkland and his squad mates are happy to be assigned to a simple corporate bodyguard contract when the interstellar corporation Datacon Verlag inadvertently offends a seriously strange religious cult with an advertising campaign and turns to Wardogs Incorporated for protection. But the contract proves to be considerably more challenging than expected when the executive they are guarding ends up dead, murdered by a military-grade toxin, and they find themselves ordered to track down his killer. But how do you solve a murder when your two primary skills are breaking things and killing people?

HUNTER KILLER is the second in the WARDOGS INC. series of military science fiction novels. From the reviews of the first book, BATTLESUIT BASTARDS:

  • Excellent MilSF. Gritty and no nonsense mercs far into Earth’s history. Its the Acendency now, the world of Quantom Mortus. Thoroughly enjoyed this and looking to more in what must be a series. The mercenaries, their tactics, combat moves are all there. You could actually get a low level tactical and some strategic education from novels like this. Obviously written by someone who knows of the craft of war.
  • This is what I call military science fiction. I could tell from the first two lines that this book was going to be worth the read! The opening was very strong. There is no time for afternoon tea for these guys, because there is so much action.
  • Surprisingly good yarn. Well realised universe. Lots of action. Very much in the mercenary companies idiom. Easy to race through to find out what happens next. Expert writing and pacing.
  • Wardogs is a fun romp through the Quantum Mortis universe by a new author. I loved the story and the characters it was non-stop action from beginning to end. I’m hoping to see many more Wardog stories. If you like Drake, Ringo, Carr, or Stirling you should enjoy this book.
  • The book compares well to David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, the original book on Sci Fi Mercs. This takes place in the world of Quantum Mortis, where you have super advanced technology, in a universe that resembles city states. And with a fight going on with AIs. This is a mercenary company, publicly traded with stock options, in that universe. 
If you like Quantum Mortis, then I can assure you that you will like these books.

It’s probably for the best

No more songs of Ice and Fire for you, at least not this year:

George R.R. Martin is confirming what Game of Thrones fans have increasingly suspected: The long-awaited sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, The Winds of Winter, will not be out in 2018 (here are some of the best fan reactions to this news).

The author revealed the decision in a press release announcing a publication date for Fire and Blood, his upcoming history of the Targaryens which has clocked in at a massive 989 pages long.

“No, winter is not coming… not in 2018, at least,” Martin wrote. “You’re going to have to keep waiting for The Winds of Winter. You will, however, be able to return to Westeros this year. I do want to stress… indeed, I want to shout… that Fire and Blood is not a novel. This is not a traditional narrative and was never intended to be… let’s call this one ‘imaginary history’ instead. The essential point being the ‘history’ part. I love reading popular histories myself, and that’s what I was aiming for here … (Though there are enough stories here for twenty novels. Battles, bloodshed, betrayals, love, lust, horror, religious wars, politics, incest, historical revisionism, all the fun stuff) .… As for me, I’m returning once again to The Winds of Winter.”

I can, however, confirm that the full A Sea of Skulls will be released this year. The hardcover will definitely be available for Christmas.


Even dead, he’s more productive

JRR Tolkien is releasing a new book, The Fall of Gondolin, which sounds right up my alley.

In the latest sad episode of the saga of George R. R. Martin’s next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, never being published, legendary deceased author J.R.R. Tolkien has reportedly finished another book before Martin could complete Winds of Winter. Not only is the legendary Lord of the Rings author publishing a new book before Martin, but he’s publishing them at a faster rate in general. Tolkein’s new book, The Fall of Gondolin, which will be published in 2018, follows 2017’s Beren and Lúthien, meaning despite being dead since 1973, Tolkien is somehow able to release books at a rate of one per year, while Martin hasn’t released a new ASOIAF book since 2011’s A Dance With Dragons.

The Fall of Gondolin is billed as the first “real” story of Middle Earth, and tells of the fall of the titular city to dark forces. Edited by Tolkein’s 93-year-old son, Christopher Tolkien, the book was reportedly written while J.R.R. Tolkien was convalescing after the Battle of the Somme. The Guardian, which broke the story, provides a summary of the story:

The book, said publisher HarperCollins, sets the “uttermost evil” of Morgoth against the sea-god Ulmo. Morgoth is trying to discover and destroy the hidden city of Gondolin, while Ulmo is supporting the Noldor, the kindred of the elves who live in the city.

The story follows one of the Noldor, Tuor, who sets out to find Gondolin; during his journey, he experiences what the publisher described as “one of the most arresting moments in the history of Middle-earth”: when Ulmo, the sea-god, rises out of the ocean during a storm.

When Tuor arrives in Gondolin, he becomes a great man and the father of Eärendel, an important character in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. But Morgoth attacks, with Balrogs, dragons and orcs, and as the city falls, Tuor, his wife Idril and the child Eärendel escape, “looking back from a cleft in the mountains as they flee southward, at the blazing wreckage of their city”.

It might seem shocking that a deceased author could publish two books in his popular fantasy series in just two years, while Martin has taken over 7 years to provide fans with the penultimate chapter of his series and seems unlikely do so before HBO finishes Game of Thrones, the television adaptation that had to chart its own course after lapping Martin. However, it’s worth noting that, being dead, Tolkien needn’t be distracted by things like LiveJournal or WildCards books, so he has a distinct advantage.

Look for The Fall of Gondolin sometime this year. Don’t bother looking for The Winds of Winter. It’s never coming out.

They may well be right. I strongly suspect that George RR Martin simply can’t write at the same level as his previous books in the series anymore, and he knows it. Being a gamma, he’d rather not even try than take the risk of trying, failing, and destroying his literary legacy.

That’s my current theory, anyhow. And it’s totally not based on any concerns about the rest of A Sea of Skulls living up to the first two-thirds….