I love video games. I am amazing at them. A true master of the craft. I know all the ins and outs, the tricks and the cheats, the….Okay, so I maybe lying at this point. I do love video games but I am absolutely horrible at them. Unless it’s a game that I played in my childhood (Nintendo and Super Nintendo for the win!), I have the worst time trying to figure things out. For example, when I play Mortal Kombat on the PS3 with my friends, I am known as the expert button masher. If I win it’s because I figured out what buttons to keep pushing over and over again not because I actually knew what I was doing. All that being said though, I still enjoy books that are about gamers, and I find myself fascinated by those who can actually handle a video game. Lucky for me Insignia by S.J. Kincaid has both of those things in spades!
Tom Raines is a self conscious ugly kid who lives with his super paranoid gambler father Neil. The two of them never stay in one location for very long due to lack of money and Neil’s gambling addiction. Because of this, Tom is very behind in school but, even though he isn’t very academically smart, he is an excellent gamer. In fact, he is such an excellent gamer that the government eyes him for recruitment for their war. World War III isn’t fought on earth but instead in space with teenagers piloting machines with their brains from Earth. This is because the war isn’t about human rights or the perceived protection of a country but instead is occurring because evil corporations are fighting over land rights. Despite Tom’s misgivings about the war and the government, he accepts the position that he recruited for and moves into the Pentagonal Spire, where he is trained and aspires to make a name for himself. Something he never thought was possible when he was living with his father.
Of course, the life that Tom is now living isn’t exactly what it seems. In fact, Insignia is packed full of twists and turns which keep the story interesting and kept me reading. There is a lot of detail regarding the military technology and tactics and the challenges which were placed in front of the teenagers at Spire in order to qualify them for the next level. It was fun to read about these things and imagine that this could actually take place in the future. Admittedly, that is a little scary to think about but at the same time, it is interesting. I doubt I would be recruited to be a part of the Spire due to my lack of coordination, and lack of gamer skills. They wouldn’t trust me!
The characters in Insignia also kept the book interesting. Of course there is Tom who at times made me want to smack up the side of the head because of his stubbornness and inability to listen to instructions. I mean, I understood his suspicions of the government especially once more things were revealed but, at the same time there were times when I thought he was being a little too over dramatic. Luckily, he has friends that seem to balance him out a little bit. There’s Wyatt who is a super genius and incredibly loyal to Tom despite her lack of social skills, and Vik who is full of wisecracks and constantly keeps Tom on his toes, and also Yuri who everyone is a little uncertain about due to his Russian background but who proves that he has a very kind heart. Between the three of them, there is a balance and an unspoken blend of understanding that only happens between true friends. I really enjoyed reading about their adventures and was able to understand and sympathize with all of them.
Overall, Insignia is a long book but it is a relatively quick read. Everything is so interesting that you cannot help but get caught up in the world within the book and want to know more. With all its twists and turns, the plot also has the tendency to keep you on your toes as well. I’m excited for the sequel, and I’m very much looking forward to what tactics and battles are described, and to see if there is any character growth or change, especially when it comes to Tom’s character. I really do think that he has room to grow, and I’m interested to see if and how that happens.
Disclosure: Received advance copy at BEA
Other Reviews of Insignia by S.J. Kincaid:
April’s Review of Insignia: “Insignia by SJ Kincaid is totally legit!”
Bloody Bookaholic: “Insignia is by far one of the best books I’ve read this year.”