Pub. Date: 10th July 2012 (US) 2nd August 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (US) Hot Key Books (UK)
Series: Insignia (#1)
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Science fiction
Synopsis via Goodreads: 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?
Insignia is one of the most science fiction(y) novels I have ever read. It’s a high concept story, action packed, and full of intergalactic fighting with robots, sending fellow classmates viruses (because they have computers installed in their brains, of course), and spending time in playing virtual reality video games that feel incredibly real…
I was so impressed with how detailed, imaginative, and intricate Insignia was. Not just the world-building (which, depending on what mood I’m in, can be hugely important to me), but also each individual character. S.J. Kincaid could’ve played it safe. Some YA authors (although it is not limited to YA) feel that because they are writing for children and teenagers, they do not have to be as detailed and technical, do as much research, or use much science (at least, make it sound like ‘real’ science), because children won’t care or be interested in it anyway – something I feel very strongly against and believe underestimates young people. I do not feel Insignia does this at all but rather flatters its audience. Sometimes the concepts, information, and jargon could be a lot to take in at once, but the result was that it ended up being an extremely rewarding experience.
I was also very surprised that Insignia was as character-driven as it was plot-driven. I found myself equally as interested in what was going to happen to certain characters (in particular Tom, our protagonist, and Wyatt, a highly talented fellow student with a knack for advanced programming) as I was finding out what was really going on with World War III and the Spire. It is full of incredibly talented, intelligent, witty, and dedicated teenagers. There were some pop culture references that made me feel like I was reading about real teenagers that were just in an unusual situation, and little moments that made me smile, that really captured what it feels like to having fun banter with some close friends.
Although Insignia is part of a trilogy, I feel that it’s important to mention that the ending will not leave you frustrated. It can easily be read as a standalone novel and does not end on a cliffhanger, which goes to show that a book does not need an open ending to draw readers back. It is going to make a fantastic movie – the rights have already been optioned – and I have absolutely no idea where the second and third books will take us.
Insignia takes ‘boarding school story’ to another level; a highlight of its genre. The highly technical World War III set in space, and the remarkable band of young teenagers put at the forefront of the battle, will blow your socks off!
(Pie chart by Hot Key Books)
Thank you Hot Key Books for providing this book for review!