Kritika's Reviews > Insignia

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
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's review
Jul 09, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: arc-or-review-copy, young-adult, sci-fi, own, summer-2012-challenge
Read from July 10 to 12, 2012

This book reminded me a lot of one of my favorite books - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. With a book like that to live up to, I figured this one couldn't possibly come close. It doesn't have the brilliance of Card's insights into human nature and the complexities of his characters, but what it does have is a chilling image of the future, in which teenagers hold the keys to war and technological advances run rampant.

Tom is the son of a gambler, a nobody in anyone's terms. He's always moving around, so he doesn't have much of a home or an education. The only thing he's good at is video games - there's some instinct in him that lets him go all out. No mercy, no regrets. It is that instinct that lands him at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy where teenagers are trained in interstellar warfare. As Tom struggles to come to terms with his new abilities and identity, he must also prove his worth against one of the toughest and most brilliant military minds - Medusa.

I really enjoyed how the story explored the characters' doubts about their identities and whether they belong at the Spire. Tom isn't a genius or a prodigy on any level, yet he finds himself meriting a spot among the very best. Yuri is of Russian origin, and even if he isn't a spy, he will never truly belong at the academy because of suspicion and prejudice. Wyatt is a brilliant programmer, but has to hide her skills in order to keep her "friends" safe. Her social awkwardness doesn't help with making real friends either. Vik is perhaps the most well-adjusted to his new life, but even he needs his friends to keep him sane. The emphasis on friendship rather than romance was wonderful.

The neural processors were a frightening but very believable component of the story. The whole scenario was very well thought out - how it interacts with the biological brain, the difficulties of adjusting to it, and how it can be abused. As Tom is at the mercy of malicious programming, you begin to see just how frightening these little pieces of hardware can be. You lose yourself and everything you believe in, all because of a couple of 1s and 0s. (view spoiler)

The end of this book was great. Tom's instincts kick in just as you'd expect, and he does exactly what no one would expect. And instead of just ending the story with Tom's victory, the author takes a look at the aftermath as well. It's a bittersweet ending, but it's the best ending this book could have.
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