Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: July 10, 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
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?
Tom’s life has never been easy…or lucky, for that matter. Frankly, he’s never been much of anything except the one destined to clean up his father’s continued messes again, and again and again. He wants more though. Tom believes he is destined for great things, and he just wishes he could find an in. Unlucky Tom catches a lucky break when someone recognizes his fantastic ability to blend, adapt and con his way to success. He is inducted into the Pentagonal Spire where he has the chance to become one of the elite – a human weapon in the third world war. But greatness always comes at a price…is Tom willing to pay it?
How many times have I said that I wish there were more YA books from the male perspective? Seriously…the answer is many. Insignia offers us the male viewpoint and so much more. Author S.J. Kincaid had her hands full with this one, to say the very least. With a world far bigger than the size of the book implies, Insignia envelops you in a tense, nearly alternate reality in which virtual reality is as real and as plain as day. With a richly fluid writing style, the novel pulls us into a world that is entirely different than our own, but also terrifyingly real and riveting.
Holy. Crazy. Geekdom. Before anything else, allow me to say that Insignia rocks the sci-fi genre, turning it on its head with an entirely new approach, fantastic wit and a host of characters that are engaging, blunt and utterly honest. I’d seen next to no hype about this book, so I definitely wasn’t expecting too much, though I’ll admit that the premise fascinated me. The concept of neural processors and having a computer inside your skull merges with concepts of gamers, which I’m entirely unfamiliar with. However, Insignia builds a plot and backstory that is so believable that it felt completely real. In fact, I could actually understand the concepts, and while it’s a fairly surreal concept, it felt disturbingly possible, which really amped up the strength of the novel. Then, there’s Tom. There are few male MCs that I can truly relate to and root for, but he is most certainly one of them. Tom was, in a nutshell, such an honest, stubborn and genuine guy, that I could actually put myself in his shoes – which is often a rather difficult task. Most importantly though, the fact that a female author wrote his story did not detract from him being a guy’s guy…and a totally believable one at that. Insignia was terse, action-packed and complicated, but at the same time simplistic, truthful and entirely refreshing. With careful humour, wit and sly intelligence, Insignia creeps up on you and steals you, heart and soul.
It’s been a while since I read such a surprising and delightfully exciting book, and Insignia really did blow me away. If you’re in the mood for something different and that breaks the mold, this is it. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy sci-fi, dsyopian and male MCs.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.