“More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.”
I adore dystopian novels and I really love the book cover but when I found out that the main character of Insignia by S.J. Kincaid was a fourteen year old boy, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure this was the book for me. How wrong I was. I loved this book so much and days after reading, I can’t stop thinking about it! All I want to do is dive back into that world and hang around with Tom and his friends to find out what happens next.
What can I say about Tom Raines? Personally, I think he is adorable and I want to adopt him as my baby brother. Tom is a 14 year old boy who’s a little shorter than average and riddled with acne. But he’s super smart, a ridiculously good gamer and not shy at going for the kill – all of which gets him noticed by the military who want to whisk him away and train him to fight interstellar wars. With a deadbeat father and a crappy home situation, he doesn’t really apply himself academically speaking and so this is his chance to make something of himself. I loved seeing Tom grow both literally and figuratively speaking throughout the book. He wants to do something that matters and feels he has found his purpose in life which helps his confidence soar. What I love most about Tom though is that he started off graciously full of flaws and definitely not the arrogant, sexy, mysterious bad boy I’m used to seeing in YA novels, which makes for a welcome change! He is just a normal teenage boy and it’s refreshing to see someone’s personality shine through regardless of what they look like.
The subject matter of Insignia, namely being war and conflict with other countries is somewhat dark but Tom and his “Doctor of Doom” partner Vik (as well as his other friends Wyatt and Yuri) bring humour to the book. Wyatt reminded me a little of Hermione from Harry Potter in that she is incredibly intelligent but lacking in social skills. I think she has a little crush on Tom and I’m surprised that it didn’t go any further than an occasional hint but I’m wondering if this will be explored in the rest of the series. As for her best friend Yuri, I thought the concept of him being “scrambled” because he could potentially be a Russian spy was hilarious.
Now, I don’t want you to go thinking that military academy is a walk in the park for Tom though as it’s not without challenges, bullies and teachers out to make Tom’s life a living hell. Couple that with not always knowing who the bad guys are and the fact that you have a neural processor (computer chip) embedded in your brain, a lot can go wrong. And it invariably does.
I read Insignia over the course of several nights because I wanted to take my time with it. I didn’t want to devour it in one sitting and really, I don’t think it’s that kind of book. I can tell you though that every day; I looked forward to my evening reading time and I enjoyed every minute of it. This book definitely has both boy AND girl appeal and would make an AMAZING movie.
Insignia is a fast paced, futuristic thriller that I would describe as War Games meets Hackers meets The Last Starfighter. Thankfully, it is part of a trilogy *fist pumps* and I am salivating for the next instalment!
Insignia is published on 10th July, 2012 in the US and 2nd August, 2012 in the UK. To find out more about S.J. Kincaid, please click here to visit her website.