Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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.
My Rating: ****
Woah. Just. Woah.
Insignia was not exactly what I was expecting it to be. I don't know why I thought it would be so serious - I imagined Ender's Game (cause it does sound like it, no?) and crazy intensity. And it does deliver on those. But it is also incredibly funny and entertaining. Like, throw my head back, belly laugh funny. It is such a beautiful balance of sci-fi and edge-of-your-seat suspense and action and easy to read entertainment. It was so well done that this is really a very high four stars.
I went into it hesitant. I thought that, despite all the gushy reviews I've seen, it wouldn't quite fit me. Teenage boy protagonist, major video gamer, finds out his video gaming skills could actually be used to fight in WWIII and all of a sudden he's given a computer for his brain, receives a growth spurt and has his acne magically disappear. He turns into a super weapon and gains friends and popularity. Sounds like a nerdy teenage boy's dream come true, right? But this book is so much more than that.
The science is blow-your-brain awesome. My little inner geek was, well, for lack of a better term, totally geeking out. The neural processors freaked me out at first (WHEN! When will YA characters in futuristic sci-fi novels learn NOT to let people put things in their brains????!!!??), but it turned out to be really cool. Some of the most hilarious moments occurred because of people hacking into each other's brains. Also some of the most disturbing and terrifying things too. If this book teaches you one thing, it's not to underestimate the power of a good programmer.
I loved all the characters, especially Tom. He was funny and heartbreaking and I wanted to adopt him for his genius, his wit, his vulnerability, his sweetness, his bravery, and his sheer force of life personality. His friends, Vik and Wyatt and Yuri, all make this book extra amazing. There's nothing stock-character-y about any of them. They are all fully fleshed-out people that I grew to love. And I just have to mention the Medusa side plot (Medusa is the most powerful fighter for the other side of the war - and Tom's arch nemesis). Woah. Just. Woah. I know I already said that, but this one element blew this book to a whole new level of awesomeness. Sheesh. Listen to me. Can you tell I've been reading a book with a teenage boy MC? :D
I know I've been gushing, but this is a great book. Wonderful writing, wonderful editing. Everything was tight, smooth, and fast-paced. Incredible story, believable world, plenty of action - but without sacrificing plot or character development, and loads of laughs.
Read. Enjoy. Thank me later.
Content: The teenage boys do get a bit crass on occasion and there is some casual swearing.