Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Published: July 10, 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books
Hardcover, 444 pages
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 III. 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. --GoodReads
|4 and a Half Stars|
Insignia truly brought out my inner geek. A mish-mash of sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, and government, Insignia may seem quite daunting: 444 pages is definitely NOT something you want to joke about. But since it was so fun to read, it went by in a flash. The only thing that reminded me of its sheer size was the fact that I had to lug it around everywhere I went because I couldn't put it down!
Now, if you look around at all the other Gals here at YAN, you'll find that only a few of us are patient enough to endure books this long with a plot focused on a male POV, let alone one set in a futuristic, yet somewhat plausible society. I really enjoy these types of novels because they're so utterly unique that they create their own genre; these days, there's a better chance that you'll end up picking up a vampire/werewolf/faerie/dragon/dystopian-hullabaloo story that's been retold a bajillion times over. When I first picked up Insignia, I have to admit, there were a few shreds of doubt. Once I got in about 40-50 pages, I was entranced! I absolutely HAD TO finish this story- it was that good.
Plot/Story/Style: So special, and very creative. As you advance through the story, you watch Tom, the main character, worm and weasel his way out of tough situations, always lightening the worst scenarios with his self-depreciating humor. Tom is no ordinary high school kid: he's a gamer, an online gaming god. Tom is recruited by the government to train as a teenage war combatant - with a computer chip in his head! I really enjoyed this plot because it follows this "loser" of a kid as he blossoms and transforms into his someone he never dreamed he could become. As a techno-geek, I loved reading about different tidbits and ideas about "futuristic" technology. It was a no-brainer that I'd fall in love with this story immediately.
Although Insignia does explain a few of the main problems, the way it started definitely could've improved. I felt like it left enough "la-la" fuzzy time in the beginning for some readers to want to drop out. If you do choose to read this book, I warn you to not be disappointed/frustrated with the ending! It's SUPPOSED to be a cliff-hanger! That's what they do. They lead you on and make you want/itch/NEED to read the sequel. So, yes, there will be a sequel. Other than that, I really enjoyed the plot, story, and style.
Characters: I can't say that these players of the plot aren't a bit cliche, but Kincaid manages to work out the knots and details and adds pizzazz so much so that you barely even notice the slight predictability of the characters. Insignia, through all its crazy concepts and ideas, manages to create realistic friendships and relationships between different characters. As their back-stories unravel you begin to see why they tick the way they do. Just putting this out here now: if you're looking for some cheesy never-gonna-happen, lip-smacking, on-the-edge-of-the-seat-love-pentagon romances, please do not read this book. Need I remind you that the main character of interest is only 14. Yes, only 14.
My favorite character would probably be Tom. I enjoyed his transformation, and his boyish sense of humor! I've read waaaaaay too many YA books on girls, that this one really conked me on the head with its boyishness. Tom is not hot, he is not swoony, he is not sexy. He is a real boy. You know, that annoying guy that teases the girl he likes, the one that needs to prove everyone wrong, the one that makes a fool of himself, the one you can't help but smack your head against the wall 20 bajillion times every time he opens his mouth? You know: it's that guy.
Movie Possibility- ??? This book really has the potential to become a pretty decent movie. I'd probably go see it, if it means anything to you.
Overall, Insignia was a wonderful read, full of laughs, reminders of why you hated boys in elementary school, and technology. Kincaid really is a writing genius; kudos to you Kincaid! To anyone out there, I recommend this technology infested story, whether you may love or hate electronics. It's a guarantee that you'll get "plugged" into the story right away.