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Insignia #3


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Tom Raines and his friends return to the Pentagonal Spire for a new year, eager to continue their training for the elite Intrasolar Forces. But they soon discover troubling changes. Strict new regulations, suspicious agents in positions of power, and the revelation that the Spire is under military control. The trainees are now cadets. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those in control are aligned with corporate sponsors who have ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, they reveal the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications. Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies, and it seems he is not alone: the other Ghost in the Machine also begins fighting against the Corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can he endure in the battle to save himself?

464 pages, Paperback

First published October 28, 2014

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S.J. Kincaid

17 books2,181 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 473 reviews
6 reviews3 followers
June 21, 2015
Okay so I feel obliged to tell you all that I've been stalking around GoodReads, reading reviews for almost a year now, but this series is what finally got me to create an account so I could post this.


I actually just got Insignia yesterday morning after seeing the GoodReads page and finished Vortex about 10 minutes ago. The only reason I ever put the book down was to eat, and even then unwillingly.

But anyways, I didn't just come on here to post what an amazing series this is (though that indeed is a big part--THIS SERIES IS AMAZING), let's think about where this final book can go...

When I first found out there would only be three books I was thrown. I'd just finished Insignia and I had no idea how Kincaid could wrap this whole thing up in only two more books. I was thinking something like 5 or 6. And now, after finishing Vortex, I still have no idea how she's going to do it. Okay sure things are coming to a head with...well...EVERYTHING, but I still expected to have AT LEAST another two or three more volumes to enjoy the sarcasm and book gripping plot. But then again maybe it's better if she sticks to three and doesn't have to pump out a fluff book. On the other hand though, it sounds like Kincaid signed the trilogy contract from the beginning, so what if she's going to have to squish everything into this last book? I mean, Tom only just got promoted to Upper for god's sake! I'm sure it'll still be amazing though. GOD I CAN'T FLIBBIN WAIT.

Alight, let's start with Wyatt and Tom. We've been getting hints about Wyatt's feelings for Tom since the beginning:

She shifted her weight and took a few deep breaths, like she was bracing herself for something. Then her dark eyes moved up to Tom's. "Do you think I should be with him?"
"I can't tell you that."
"But you can. Do you think that he's really the one I should go out with? You bet against it. Was there a reason for that?" She was looking at him with an odd intensity. Tom stared back, bemused, and her cheeks grew pink. "I don't want to make a mistake, that's all," she mumbled, looking at the ground. "I just don't want to do the wrong thing here."

And again post-Yuri:

"Look," [Tom] said, "I was curious about seeing Medusa again after the incursion. We played games and she killed me a lot and stuff. Oh, and Medusa is a girl. Yeah, I found that out, too."
"A girl?" Wyatt said, frowning. "Like a girlfriend girl?"
Tom's cheeks flushed. "No. I mean..." He still wasn't sure what to say to that. "No!" He considered that kiss. "Well, maybe. I'm not sure."
"How long has this been going on?" she mumbled.
"Not so long."
"You never told us."
"So? Why's it such a big deal?"
"It's not," Wyatt said. "I don't care."

I have a weird feeling SOMETHING is going to happen with this in the final book. I was scared pretty much all the way through the two books that eventually Wyatt would tell Tom how she actually felt and then Yuri would find out one way or another and be upset with both of them. The poor big teddy bear. He'd have nowhere to go except Vik, and we all know how emotionally supportive Vik can be (oh that Spicy Indian...). Although, even though it seemed like Wyatt wasn't entirely reciprocating all of the couple stuff most of the time, at the very end of Vortex we get this just as Yuri's waking up:

And then [Yuri's] lingering distress seemed to melt away when Wyatt slunk forward and settled by his side. He craned his head back so he could gaze up at her adoringly, and for the first time Tom could remember, she looked back at him the same way

So perhaps we won't have a scene with Wyatt awkwardly confessing how she feels about Tom in this last book? I hope so, for Yuri's sake.

Aside from her feelings for Tom and Yuri, we have her programming, which leads us to Blackburn.

Is this guy a nut job? Uh hell yes. Let's see, he accidentally blew up both his kids (though in all fairness that was before he amended his mental health), he's been stock piling information on Vengerov for the last who knows how many years, and finally he's willing to kill off children or strip their minds to further his revenge against Vengerov. And yet, this guy is one of my favorite characters? Could it be that my inner programmer is a little bias? Probably. But still, even knowing how crazy and unstable he is and how far he's willing to go to back his own plans, I really wish Tom would finally get along with him (I thought for a second that might happen after he saved Tom from the snow, but then we got the Heather incident).

Anyways, if you don't think this guy is going to have a big role in this next book, boy you better go back and read those first two. My bet is he'll end up dying a martyr hero immediately after saying something endearingly fatherly and protecting Tom and the crew and Tom will finally appreciate him, but only after he's dead. On the other hand, I can also distinctly see him going head to head with Vengerov in a programming battle and getting beaten (though of course Tom would see this scenario and end up respecting him as well). Who knows, maybe I just really want to see Tom finally respect an adult other than his crazy father and Marsh? But my guess is that if any of the characters are going to die, I'm afraid Blackburn would be the first one on that list (maybe after Karl).

And then we have Medusa/Yaolan.

I absolutely LOVE Medusa. I was so scared this book would be another case of the shy nerdy boy somehow gets the outgoing hot blonde and they ride off into the sunset. Thank god I was wrong. Medusa is AMAZING. Not only is she the only one who can beat Tom, she kicks ass at literally everything.

I'm a little bit scared for Tom though. I mean how many times has he messed this Medusa thing up? Let's count:

"We can still meet online, can't we?" Medusa said, peering at him. "Once you're out of the Spire, it's not treason anymore if we meet."
"It wouldn't be a good idea," Tom said.
"I see." There was something flat in her voice. "So once you're gone from the military, you can't be bothered. I get it."
Tom's head wasn't in the right place for this stuff. "What? Where did you even get that?"
"Maybe this was a bad idea all around."

I see why you're called Medusa

Tom turned back toward her. "Medusa!" He'd almost forgotten to think of her lately, with everything that had happened. "I'm so glad you're here."
"I know I've been staying away," she said. "I wanted to tell you--"
"Medusa, I need to ask you something." He steered through the chaos, only a sliver of his attention on the conflict. "It's important."
"I need to ask you things, too. About, well, when you kissed me--"
"Not now," Tom said. "I can't right now. This is a bad time. Look, have you ever been bounced out of a system while interfacing with it? I need to know."
There was a thick silence. Her voice grew icy [...] She was silent a long moment as the plane shook around them. Then, so softly he almost didn't hear her, "I shouldn't have come back."

4.(and the worst so far)
Tom drew her into a kiss, and for a moment, there was nothing else in the world, just Medusa...Yaolan. And he never wanted to let her go.
But Tom didn't like to fool himself, and he couldn't passively accept doom. He pulled back from her, dread saturating his every pore, knowing there was a way he could fix this. He could save her. There was one way. Only one. He'd been willing to walk out into the snow in Antarctica for her. He was willing to do this now, even if she never forgave him for it.
"I'm sorry, Yaolan," he whispered.
A shadow passed over her face. "Sorry?"
Tom stared right into her eyes and thought out the trigger phrase, I'll never do this to her.

(I know I'm leaving out the one where he calls her ugly and says it doesn't matter because of the avatars, but I can't seem to find it ATM)

I, as the reader, understand that Tom really likes her, but I don't know how much longer she'll keep thinking that...I can't help thinking that eventually she's going to stop coming back to him (maybe we're already to that point after this last stint with Vengerov's virus). But anyways, as much as I want to see the two of them together, as in, PHYSICALLY together, I have doubts if that will ever be possible if Tom continues on the road he's on...She'll only give him so many second chances...

That's pretty much all I've got right now (this took surprisingly longer than I thought). I know there's a lot I'm missing with the revolution and Elliot and the state of the world in general, but I'll be sure to update this as more information for the book comes in. Noting the pattern of the release dates for the last two books (July 10th and July 2nd respectively), I'm guessing this one will be out either early July or late June hopefully? I guess we'll see...until then I suppose we'll all just have to begin the long hard wait...
Profile Image for Alice.
229 reviews42 followers
July 27, 2018
4.5* I was a bit pissed when I finished this because things weren't exactly how I wanted it, but now I love this book which literally happens every time I finish one of these because I remember the really fucking weird moments that happen. Like there was this part where the world was ending (yes I'm serious) and Tom's friend walks in breathless because he fucked someone.

This whole book was super dramatic. This last book takes place over 2+ years. I liked the 2nd book better though. Didn't like the romance.

There were a lot of plot twists in this. I'm not really a plot twist person so they were just fine. I like figuring out situations not when explanations are given for situations which is what plot twists do. Here's the thing about this book compared to the first 2 books. It's very different. It's more plot driven.

There was a lot of references to the first 2 books which I loved. That was done very well. I didn't really like the ending + epilogue which is around 30 pages. Everything before that was very exciting and cool.

My favorite part of the whole story is the VR simulation with Tom and the soldiers. Best scene of the whole series. So epic. I loved how he used both the kid Zane as bait and his neural processor to play out the situation. This is the stuff that made the first 2 books amazing.

My favorite book is definitely the 2nd one. The 2nd book is pretty much a perfected version of the first book. The first book started off bad, but I ended up loving it. The reason I like this book least is because in the first 2 books Tom drove every situation and decision in the story and I loved him for it. In this one he's not driving the story as much because the scope of the story in this one is so large.

There was also this random scene where he goes to a holocaust museum: (By the way this book takes place in 2116. The main character is born in 2100. Pretty cool.)

Tom realized how callous he’d sounded. Given his brand-new reputation as a psychopath after the ethics simulation, he knew he needed to backtrack.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Tom said. “It’s not like I saw the Auschwitz stuff and worked up an appetite. I was already thinking about burgers way earlier in the day, long before we came here.”

Iman stared at him.

“But I wasn’t like, thinking of burgers the whole time we were in there, of course,” Tom added quickly. “I was mostly thinking about the murdered children, like you were. And the adults, too. And everyone who died. I mean, I guess I covered everyone when I said adults and children, but still . . . it’s bad.” He tried to think of something articulate to say, and settled with, “I think genocide is wrong. Very wrong.”

Here something from my favorite scene:
Tom released his grip on the railing and landed at an awkward angle on the stairs. A split second of terrible realization informed him he was about to fall downthe stairs, so he seized the soldier, and made sure he came tumbling down with him. They hurtled down, step to step, as Tom sped up the time perception of his neural processor to give him space to run calculations. Twist left forty degrees to make sure Kuik took the brunt of the next hit . . . right thirty degrees to crack his head against the next concrete step . . .

They landed on the bottom of the stairwell, and Tom reset his perception of time to its default. He reared up faster than Kuik could, and slammed his palm into the man’s face, driving the cartilage of his nose up into his brain with a brutal crunch. Blood seeped out from his nostrils.

Tom heard Zane’s rapid footsteps, scuttling down the stairs after them, and hastily twisted the guy’s head to face the wall so the kid wouldn’t realize he was dead. “That went well.”

(edit: Tom is literally the exact definition of a chaotic good. I was just thinking about this book and finally realized this.)
I feel like I should throw this in here. Tom is my favorite main character of all time. Uh these quotes might make him seem crazy, but there's more context to these scenes trust me. So in the start of the first book his life is absolute shit. His father is a gambling alcoholic. His mother is gone. He is however very good at VR gaming. He gets recruited to a military academy to train for a war in space.

He has a very headstrong personality, but he's also a very good person. It's a fun combo. Usually I hate headstrong characters because they are stupid and I don't get their actions at all, but in this series it's always clear why Tom does certain actions. In other words he gets shit done no matter what. He always makes the move AND I always see the reasoning behind it AND I almost always agree. He pretty much has my ideal personality for myself which is a little weird, but also awesome.

Oh yeah no one is going to read up to this point, but I hate the book Nyxia which is pretty much a crappy version of this series. Emmett has a very similar backstory to Tom, but his personality is opposite. Yeah that's why I hate that book. He never makes the move and you know what, he never gets shit done and gets screwed over by the people in charge. Eat a rock dude. I realized this whole review is straight ass so might I well shade Nyxia while I'm at it.

I think this might be my current favorite series? This or the Leviathan series. I bet people think my favorite series is Shatter Me lol. I mean it's up there.
Profile Image for Esthela Gómez.
120 reviews30 followers
November 15, 2014





sorry for the shouty letters

Since I started this series I said THIS IS MY FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION BOOK EVER and still is. This trilogy has everything, I laughed hysterically, cried, screamed, sighed, etc, It has inspired so many feelings that other books have not. Why is that? the characters, each one of them are so fantastically written. Throughout the series you can see how they grow and change but the incredible friendship between them remains constant until the end.
Tom is one of my favorite characters of all time, some people have a love-hate relationship with him, but mine was only love, sometimes he infuriated me, yes, however his stubbornness and other imperfections are what makes him unique and real, as well as his courage, strength, perseverance and loyalty.

I would like to talk about each characters; Vik, Wyatt, Yuri, Yaolan, Blackburn...but that would make a testament haha. So I'll just say that I wish we all had the opportunity to meet people like these.

Chuck and Stark Trek have been influential in Kincaid to write these books but the construction of this world as well as its plot and extraordinary dialogues makes them incomparable to these and other books like HP or Ender's Game.

I will miss reading new follies of The Doctors of Doom, The Evil Wench and the handsome android, but I'll settle for rereading the books and wait for the movie (hope it does it justice). Kincaid thanks for such a great adventure, I can not wait to read more of your wonderful imagination.


"You can say it’s naive or say it’s foolish.

But please never say it’s impossible"

Profile Image for Carolina .
140 reviews32 followers
June 16, 2021


Después de pensar un poco más creo que no hay forma de describir este libro sin spoilers, mis pensamientos siguen siendo exactamente los mismos de arriba, creo que puedo agregar el crecimiento que tuvo Tom conforme a confiar en sí mismo y en otros, como entenderse un poco más y ver realmente a sus seres queridos como personas que lo aceptaran sin importar qué. Siempre me conflictuo que incluso cuando Tom consideraba a Wyatt, Vik y Yuri sus mejores amigos, no lograba abrirse del todo con ellos, tenía muchos miedos sobre cómo lo verían si mostraba ciertas partes de sí, todo lleno de miedo al abandonó y el rechazo, los quería tanto que temía perderlos por ser completamente él, y en este libro se da cuenta que cuando la gente te quiere en verdad tu pasado y problemas no importan, y es algo que me puso muy soft, incluso cuando tuvo que pasar por cosas horribles y enfrentar sus más temidos demonios Tom aprendió que la gente lo quería de verdad, y eso no cambiaría. Also, uno desde el inicio sabe los grandes problemas psicológicos de Tom, y que al fin empiece a tomar terapia como parte de querer ser mejor fue precioso, y lo mejor fue que cuando tomó el valor de decirlo sus amigos estaban como "todos vamos bro, es la cosa más normal del mundo, pero que bien que te este funcionando".


Siempre supe que para Blackburn Wyatt era como una hija, pero cuando noté que también se sentía así por Tom... me llegó, lloré con su muerte, dejo de lado su venganza, lo único que lo motivó a seguir luchando por 15 años para salvar a sus hijos :CCC
Profile Image for C.P. Cabaniss.
Author 5 books96 followers
December 2, 2021
"There's no meaning in life once you're a monster."

This book is spectacular. It is honestly one of the best series conclusions I've ever read. If you're at all inclined to pick up the first book, I say go for it. One of my favorite series.

Original Review 2016
Insignia and Vortex, the first two books in this trilogy, were excellent. Some of my favorite reads this year. This, however, was in an entire league of its own.

I was honestly wondering, going into this, how things could possibly be wrapped up in ~400 pages. I did not need to worry. These pages were packed with non-stop action, insane twists that surprised and delighted me, heartbreaking events, and a beautiful story.

This is one of the best series conclusions I believe I have ever read. And now that I have read all of S J Kincaid's published novels, I really need her to get another one out. Everyone needs to go read this book right now. Well, start at the beginning.

Full review will be coming on my blog.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,252 reviews187 followers
November 30, 2014
Catalyst has got to be one of my most anticipated reads of this year....and that was before I had even finished reading Vortex. I have loved this series from the start, devouring every book and wanting more straight after, and while I wanted to have Catalyst, I also didn't want it, by reading it then I was admitting that this series would be over. that there would be no more from the characters that I have loved, that have grown up in each new installment and made an even bigger impact on me.

I began reading Catalyst immediately after finishing Vortex, so everything was still fresh in my mind. Now an Upper Tom has to prove he has what it takes to deserve this promotion, he must prove he should be there, and that he has what it takes to become a Combatant. But his journey will not be an easy one, everything has changed at the Spire, and not for the better. With new rules, and new 'management' Tom is finding it hard to fit in, to bend to these rules, and follow instructions that really don't make sense.

Catalyst is jam packed full of awesomeness, I am actually scared to say to much in case I reveal what happens in the pages. A lot of the events that happen I did not see coming, some had me shocked and really sad wanting it to be over, that someone would come. Others had me surprised I had not realised this would happen and it completely came out of the blue. The action and the fighting had me on the edge of my seat, there was never a sure thing over who or what would win, and right down to the last few chapters you are kept guessing over what the ending will be like.

I loved getting to see this group of friends grow, as adults, as friends, and as fighters...fighters for the truth, for friendship, and for what is the right thing. I love how they were not easily coerced into something, that they had enough self belief in themselves and their friendship to know what was really right in their hearts. We even get to see an old face that really made me smile.

Catalyst is a fantastic end to this series, which is a MUST READ for everyone, and I can't wait to see what the author has in store for us in the future.
Profile Image for Kayla Ashley.
118 reviews
November 2, 2015
This was so good. I am so sad right now to say goodbye to this story and these characters. I really enjoyed this trilogy!

I did have a few issues with this book but it was so wonderfully crafted and I enjoyed it so much that I feel like I have to give it 5 stars! :)
Profile Image for Jennie.
68 reviews17 followers
July 9, 2014
A solid conclusion to a solid series.

Insignia was one of those books you blow through in a day. Sure, it may have been a bit derivative, but the strength of the plot and the characters was enough to keep me up all night. The second book, Vortex was less engaging. I forgive it, sophomore slump is not uncommon. But I finished it still interested in Tom Raines, still anticipating where the plot would go next.

I take that all back for Catalyst. It's the best of the series, for me -- an accomplishment considering how much I've hated some of the conclusions of other YA trilogies (case in point: Divergent. Oh, Divergent). Breakneck pacing all the way through, more plot twists than you could ever see coming. Just when you think the stakes can't get any higher, Kincaid finds even more depraved and jaw-dropping ways to torture her characters. I loved it.

And most of all, I love that it doesn't end on some semi-resolved cliffhanger. The ends are neatly tied up. The arcs of all the main characters is resolved. Every question I had about so-and-so's background, what happened to some minor character in book two -- resolved. Hallelujah. And no flash-forward where all the relationships she's constructed turn into cliche nuclear families where everything is perfect and nobody hurts (sorry, Rowling, but the epilogue was cringy).

I was so dedicated to finishing this that I read it in the car on the way back from a roadtrip. Yes, in the car, braving inevitable car sickness. There's staying up until 4am reading dedication, and then there's I might vomit for this dedication. Thanks (I think), Kincaid.

Oh, and I don't hate the main relationship. Halt the presses, I don't find the romance in a YA book tacked on, derivative, and one of the romantic interests cliche and boring. The love story actually has relevance to plot and character growth.

Super satisfying end to a super satisfying series. This is one I'll probably read again, all three books in a row.
Profile Image for Lindsay Cummings.
Author 13 books5,103 followers
October 15, 2014
I was always intrigued by the INSIGNIA series, especially when I heard that it was pitched as "Hogwarts in Space" on a recent Goodreads description.

I hadn't picked up the series until HarperCollins sent me this final book for review. I picked it up...and flew through them all.
I have always love SciFi, but for some reason, I'm reluctant to pick up some titles, because I'm afraid they will disappoint. Now I wish I'd picked up INSIGNIA long ago, so that I could be a part of the fandom's excitement all the way through!

These books are SO well done. I love the concept, the characters, the writing, the entire world. I'm often afraid that when a series comes to an end, that it'll be disappointed. There have been a few YA series that have left me wanting more when it was all over, and not in a good way.

Luckily, CATALYST delivered. At times, it was confusing, but that didn't matter after a few pages. And by the time I finished it (at 2am, as I always seem to finish books I love), I was so happy to see it ended the way I wanted it to end, which doesn't always happen! I'm hoping SJ Kincaid will have a new series in the future---I'm dying for more from this author!!
Profile Image for N Islam.
251 reviews7 followers
July 15, 2014
So, I've finished this entire series in 3 days. A book each day, and i don't regret it.

This had to be one of the most rewarding stories I've ever read. Loads of people write dystopian/sci-fi without doing any research into science fiction or even science for that matter. This author most certainly did.

I don't like bittersweet endings. This series makes you suffer through a lot of painful experiences, but I can assure you that there's a good end, and its a completely justified one.

This book brought me to tears, made my laugh my ass of and left me reading non-stop.

Its funny, crazy, romantic, well thought out and frankly a well written novel. I'd recommend this to anyone.
Profile Image for Reading is my Escape.
892 reviews47 followers
March 9, 2017
I love this series. World War III played out in space by teenagers with computers in their heads. Evil corporations and men that control the food, the water, and the war. The teens experience typical teen angst, in addition to the intrigue and dangers of being pawns in a war.

This final book in the series takes a bit of a turn, but I loved it!

Read this series or encourage your 5th graders and up to read it!!
Profile Image for Antonio Campos.
485 reviews25 followers
December 26, 2019
Una forma sencillamente ingeniosa de cerrar esta trilogía. Es más, creo que esta trilogía pudo haberse extendido a una saga de 100 libros!.
Quedo contento, satisfecho, esta trilogía cumplió con mis expectativas en su totalidad.
Sencillamente genial. No encontré ningún defecto. Perfectos!!.
Profile Image for Renuka .
542 reviews215 followers
August 26, 2017
Let me get something out of the way. My younger brother is twelve years old. He loves playing video games and building things. I am a sixteen year old girl. I wear makeup and dresses and like shopping. We both love, love, love this series. This series is not for a particular group of people. It is for everyone because it is genius. Please do not be turned away because it is a science fiction series. It is genuinely a wonderful set of books.

First off, it is funny. I have laughed out loud in all three books. My sides actually hurt from laughing alone in my room. (I have also heard my brother doing this very same thing). It is rife with hilarity. This last book takes a much darker turn than I expected compared to the other two, but it was also filled with light moments and brilliant dialogue.

Why is it so funny? The characters of course! They are diverse, witty, and constantly teasing each other. They complement each other perfectly. There is our reckless protagonist, Tom. His best friend, Tiny Spicy Vikram. The Android (Yuri). And the brilliant, Man Hands (Wyatt). Their friendship gives me life, and I love the way they grow throughout the series. This last book showed me exactly how far they've come since starting out as naive little plebes.

Secondly, the plot. Everything twists around in this last book. It darkens to a point I did not ever consider this series would go. It deals with questions of identity, justice, sacrifice and humanity. Again, the difference from book one is astonishing in how much the characters need to deal with. Kincaid does not hesitate to develop real threats in this novel. Joseph Vengerov's twisted mind games frightened even me. He certainly ranks high on the evil-o-meter with his villainy and disregard for human life.

The romance. These books are pretty light on romance, but the relationships that grow certainly impact the book greatly. Tom and Medusa (not her real name obviously) have come a long way since beating each other up in simulations, and I loved how they didn't rush together. It was gradual and subtle throughout the series. It never overpowered the other friendships or the plot. Also, Wyatt and Yuri continue resolving their relationship which I loved.

And finally, the ending. I'm sure people will complain about the "neat" ending. We all know the world is far from perfect. But the beauty of science fiction is that, we can imagine the world to become a utopia. The science fiction elements are just plain exciting! It is the stuff of dreams: computers in brains, nanomachines, simulations, space warships. I'm tired of post apocalyptic societies that suffer rebellions and utterly collapse. Why not a rebellion that ends in the reconstruction of a world? Old movie science fiction is back, and there are finally flying cars. Why not, after all?
Profile Image for Audrey.
402 reviews99 followers
September 19, 2014

Gosh, I love this series. I don't finish a lot of series, but boy am I glad to have finished this one.

It's a bit slow to start, and it takes some time to get used to the characters, storyline, and terminology again... but it didn't take too long to get up and running again. I LOVED the way Kincaid has evolved her young, exciting action series into something more mature, thought-provoking, darker, and ominous. She went DARK, man, I didn't expect it but I really appreciated it anyway. She managed to up the stakes and deal WONDERFULLY with character development.

Although we saw less of Wyatt, there were a few significant moments that I thought were just perfect. She's always been an underdog favourite of mine, and I love her character arc. Blackburn was always a wild-card (though I'll admit, I have forgotten a lot about his role in the earlier books) but I loved that he's a really complex, ambiguous character that I couldn't pinpoint. Vik and Yuri's dialogue was once again pitch perfect; they were unique and so entirely them. And of course, Tom. Tom Raines, I can't say enough good things about you, you wonderful character. Infinite hugs for you. His storyline was just beautifully done, which is kind of difficult when you feel caught up in a Transformers-movie-esque action scene, but still. Harrowing and heartbreaking at times, his progression in this entire series is marvellous. Kincaid gave us a sympathetic character who had to grow into his own, and undoubtedly succeeded.

I liked the plot, although the ending was a bit too tidy for my liking, but the ride was so worth it. I had no idea how they'd get out of this mess, and the resolution was wholeheartedly satisfying. I liked how we ventured a lot further from the Spire and into the 'real world', away from pranks and into murders, villains, and the struggle for humanity.

It's an imaginative series with broad appeal that has great characters, writing, pacing, and heart. As a picky reader, I'm not easily impressed... I'll be sitting here urging you to pick this series up.

Thank you, SJ Kincaid.
Profile Image for Aylee.
266 reviews66 followers
January 27, 2015
You can also read this review on my blog

In short: Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid is a fantastic finale to a very entertaining trilogy.

And so ends another much beloved series. I've been anticipating the ending to this high-action, high-stakes dystopian sci-fi for a while now - and thankfully this finale doesn't disappoint! The Insignia Trilogy follows gamer Tom Raines who, upon being recruited by the Pentagon and having a chip implanted in his head, can control fighter ships remotely in space as part of an intrasolar World War III. It's Ender's Game for a new generation and it's AWESOME.

Catalyst is the darkest book yet in this trilogy - the stakes are at their highest and the plot is at its most perilous. S.J. Kincaid takes risks and introduces twists and I have to applaud her for them as that's exactly what I want and NEED to see in a finale to a series like this. This series is also memorable to me because of the many moments of hilarity it induced while reading - and while Catalyst is the darkest and least playful of the trilogy, there was still some room for S.J. Kincaid's brilliant humour and I welcomed that.

As with Insignia and Vortex, I will say that the plot reaches almost ridiculous levels - complexity-wise and plausibility-wise - in Catalyst. The reliance on technologically-related plots sometimes goes over my head, while the political inferences are sometimes a bit on the nose. This series isn't about subtlety, it's about that entertainment factor and it definitely delivers on that. I will be sad to say goodbye to the greatest friends Tom, Vik, Wyatt, and Yuri, but I am pleased at least that Catalyst was a satisfying ending to an exciting series.
Profile Image for Marcus.
64 reviews20 followers
May 13, 2015
Let me start this Review by saying:

"The World does not come to an End on Page 171, it will be okay."

In my opinion catalyst starts off a little slow, with no clear cut path. Really Kincaid spends a lot of time in the first half of the book setting up for the climax. And setting up with what will happen in the latter half. Which she does a good job doing. The first half of the book is a four star, but the second half is a five star.

Finally for those readers who are wondering... Blackburn and Raines make a truce of not to kill eachother. This might be considered a spoiler, but in my opinion it was obvious and predictable. But I didn't tell you how???? (That u have to read to find out)

I did find not to be big surprise ending, but en emotional ending where everything Tom and his crew of Yuri, Wyatt, and The spicy Indian go through to be entertaining, satisfying and emotional. Most books try to wow you with a huge emotional ending. This book did have a good ending, but not because of one last big scene. But because it all just comes to together emotionally for everyone at the end.
Profile Image for Michael.
121 reviews44 followers
January 20, 2016
I think this series is underrated or at least under read on Goodreads. Granted it isn't earth shatteringly awesome, but it is a worthy book in its own right with a complex story and fun dialog.

This final book had me repeatedly thinking "how is this going to wrap up this whole series by the end of this book?" There was just so much conflict and I couldn't predict the resolution. I can say that the ending didn't feel rushed or abused as things moved toward completion.

This isn't a complaint about the story but I do wonder
Author 10 books17 followers
May 17, 2017
No tengo palabras para decir lo mucho que me hizo sentir este libro. Me saco infinidad de carcajadas, me hizo enojar e incluso me entró frustación por no poder ayudar.
Lo me sorprendió fue como pasó, de entrenamientos para las Fuerzas Instrasolares a la unión de naciones para evitar que una persona se hiciera con todo el control del mundo.
Me voy a llorar al rincón.
Profile Image for Majd.
146 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2016
Amazing characters. Amazing character development. So many emotions. Has its faults, but makes you feel so much that you don't even care.
This is one of my all-time favourite series and Thomas Raines will forever have a dear place in my heart.
Profile Image for Gary.
167 reviews67 followers
December 29, 2015
the end of this series was a bit of a let down don't get me wrong i enjoyed it put i feel as if there is so much still missing from the story so because of that only four stars
Profile Image for Shannon.
508 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2017
I no longer think it's possible to read an S.J. Kincaid book and not love it. She's amazing! I love this series so much. I don't know why I put off reading this for so long. For some reason I thought I wasn't really into the series anymore but this book quickly sucked me back in and I loved it. It is definitely one of the best sci-fi series out there. If you love Harry Potter and space you need to check it out!
Profile Image for Shaheen.
636 reviews71 followers
January 14, 2015
Catalyst is the final instalment of the amazing science fiction series that began with Insignia. Tom Raines faces new challenges in this book and faces them with his usual combination of bravery and brashness.

The world-building in this series has always been one of my favourite things, and this book impressed me with how much it explored the consequences of everything in it. Tom Raines is one of a small group of teenagers picked to train as Combatants in WW3. This war is waged off-Earth - unmanned spaceships and drones battle in space, piloted on Earth by teenagers that have brain implants in their heads that help them perform complex calculations and interface with machines. There are new alliances in this world, and the war-effort (and thus the world) is controlled by huge corporations that own the spaceships, drones, and Combatants that are used in combat.

Catalyst explores how dangerous it is to have the corporations in charge of everything, and how destructive the brain-implants can be in the wrong hands. Tom Raines begins the book as an Upper within the Spire, but ends it a hero who has saved the world from a terrible fate.

Tom's character growth caught me off guard in this book. I spent most of the second book, Vortex, being exasperated and angry at his immaturity and stupidity, but Tom's learnt a few lessons since he was fifteen and it shows in his conduct and the decisions he makes in this book. He's always been brave, but now he takes the time to think through what he's doing and examines the consequences. He's also a lot less selfish and self-centred, which was great (for me anyway).

I've always loved the secondary cast in this series because they're so realistic and awesome! Tom's best friend Vik deserves a special mention for how he looks out for Tom (he didn't do a very good job in Vortex). Wyatt's story-line surprised me but her relationship with Yuri made me very happy! And Yuri's still amazing :)

Vengerov is one of the most nuanced villains I've had the pleasure of reading, with a believable history and motivation. I especially loved the twist near the end! However, the award for best supporting actor must go to Blackburn! I also liked the way the romantic storyline between Tom and Yaolan turned out. It's super sweet and cute!

Catalyst is a stunning conclusion to one of the best YA science fiction I've ever read. I've thoroughly enjoyed my journey with Tom and the gang and highly recommend the series to readers who enjoy the works of Michael Grant.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.
You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic .
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews287 followers
July 26, 2014
I received this ARC from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review, thanks!

I love when authors totally, utterly, and completely prove me wrong. I enjoyed Insignia, but wasn't in love, then read Vortex, and was very impressed, and the there's Catalyst, which is by far my favorite of the three. I don't know of a series where the books improved so much from book to book, but Kincaid has definitely done that in spades. I picked up Catalyst yesterday evening for some light night time reading, and that was a HUGE mistake, as instead of going to sleep like a normal person, I ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning finishing it. But I don't regret it one bit, just had to have a little extra caffeine before work. I don't usually do that, so it just proves how much I loved and was impressed by this book.

Catalyst takes place right after the events of VORTEX when Tom makes another big decision that echoes around him as the book starts. All of his relationships are in jeopardy, and he pretty much put a sign on his head for Vengerov to come kill him. Things take a dark turn, which was another risky move by Kincaid, but once again, she totally pulls it off as what happens to Tom, is so important for his development as a character as well as how the rest of the story plays out. I don't want to say much more, but there were several twists that completely surprised me (and were deployed perfectly at the right time), and from the first few pages, the story doesn't lose its lightning pace until the very end.

I was so unbelievably blown away with this book. And I don't impress easily. The world building as usual is incredible, which is totally hard to do in a sci fi novel, and the character arcs and development finally finish in this installment. Everything is resolved one way or another, and I think it's in a very satisfactory and perfect way. While it is the darkest of the three books, we've been heading this way for a long time, and it's the only way the story could go. I love how Kincaid barrels ahead, willing to take risks, and then executes them in a way that knocked my socks off. I went from thinking Kincaid was a talented writer with a lot of potential to now completely convinced she can do anything she sets her mind to. She's arrived.

Overall, one of the best if not BEST ending to a trilogy I've ever read, and you'll want to read all three of these books back to back. I knew after reading this book I needed to have the entire set on my shelf.
Profile Image for Ally.
1,346 reviews81 followers
December 24, 2015
I have to admit that it's only polite curiosity that brings me back to finishing this trilogy. After the crazy events in Vortex, I'm not quite happy with the series. Insignia will and always will be my favorite book. But... When I start reading Catalyst, I start liking this book too. It's much, much better than Vortex, and the stakes are so much higher than ever.

Tom Raines is annoying, but he is that kind of annoying that grows on a person. Catalyst shows one of the most interesting character development of Tom Raines, and it definitely doesn't hide how much Tom is affected by torture. (And I mean, extreme torture. Psychological torture that one doesn't walk unscathed away from.) He learns so much from his experience, and he reaches out to people. It's a big change from who he was in the beginning of Insignia, and I'm so glad he isn't that teenage boy from Vortex.

Blackburn has a few great moment, but there is a quote that comes to mind. I don't remember the exact quote, but he highlights one of Tom's most annoying yet also influential talents. He can create crazy disaster in even the most "benign" problems. Blackburn is amazing, and even though he is slightly similar to Professor Snape, he does come for our heroes in the very end. It's a very bittersweet ending for him, but I think Blackburn wouldn't have it any other way.

The plot is seriously unstoppable. It starts off with a mystery, several murders, a nasty problem, and strange occurrences. Though the action is mixed with light-hearted and tender moments between friends, I honestly can't but hope for more friendship moments. (But the lack of sweet moments most definitely serves a purpose.) Tom's character arc remains one of the strongest parts of the book, and he learns and learns and learns. He matures. Though he does has his James Bond-like moments. (63 kills in a stimulation. A freaking one-man army.)

The ending of Catalyst is great, and I can't think of any other way to end it. (After all, in this genre, there is always someone dying.) Catalyst, as the last installment in this series, is wonderful, and it proves to be a strong sequel to Vortex.

Overall, Catalyst ends the trilogy cleanly without any large complications. The adventure of Tom and his friends is left open for more stories. This book is definitely for those who would love a Sci-Fi version of Hogwarts.

Rating: Four out of Five

Profile Image for Shelley.
5,220 reviews462 followers
October 27, 2014
**I received this book for free from Katherine Tegen Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

*Genre* Young Adult, Science Fiction
*Rating* 3.5

*My Thoughts*

CATALYST brings an end to the INSIGNIA trilogy, and sends our hero, Tom Raines, off into the sunset where he definitely deserves a much need vacation. Tom is once again joined by his gang of misfits/friends; Vikra Ashwan, Wyatt Enslow, and Yuri Sysevich. CATALYST is by far the darkest novel of the trilogy, and Kincaid doesn't leave anything to chance.

**Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews* Link Below!


*Recvd 05/29/2014 via Edelweiss* Expected publication: October 28th 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books
Profile Image for Andres Becerra.
162 reviews
September 8, 2016
Me demoré por que estaba como con una pequeña resaca literaria.

Pero es perfecto de principio a fin, está lleno de giros y lleno de acción. Se puede ver como el personaje sigue evolucionando a pesar de los momentos difíciles que está pasando.

Uno de los mejores finales de trilogías que he leído hasta el momento. Me encariñe bastante de cada personaje y se les extrañará bastante.

No se si quedarme con este o con la primera parte, por que ambos están llenos de acción y partes que te dejan completamente impactado y con ganas de querer leer más. Sinceramente recomiendo esta saga, y no sé por que es tan poco conocida, aunque poco a poco veo que más gente la lee.

Buen trabajo S.J.Kincaid.

5/5 Estrellas.
Gracias al Mon <3
Profile Image for Christina.
423 reviews29 followers
December 5, 2016
Kapow, I've finished this series! It's hard to believe I could complete a series in such record time but S.J. Kincaid made it so easy with her inspiring plot and loveable characters (even the ones you hate at first, you'll grow to love in the end)! The Insignia series has been nothing short of spectacular from the very first book. Catalyst concluded everything wonderfully, delivering more impressive twists and mind-numbing action than ever.
Profile Image for Jaci.
372 reviews
May 17, 2023
Como había mencionado en mi reseña del primer libro, hubiera amado esta serie si la hubiese leído a mis 15 años.
Aun así, la historia me gustó, hay mucha tecnología y asuntos que llegan a engancharte.
En este último libro se le da aún más importancia a la amistad y el trabajo en equipo. Además sentí a Tom más maduro y eso fue bueno porque en el libro anterior detesté a este personaje.
Si quieres descansar de lecturas pesadas y quieres darte una escapadita a una aventura juvenil con tecnología y realidad virtual, esta serie es la indicada.
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