What if playing computer games could save the world...and the Government's secret weapon was you?
US author S.J. Kincaid originally wanted to be an astronaut, but she decided to become a full-time writer after spending a year studying in Edinburgh and living next to a haunted graveyard. Her favourite place to write is her apartment, and she has reverted back to being a lover of print books after a brief flirtation with (and expensive destruction of) an e-reader. Follow S. J. Kincaid at www.sjkincaid.com or on Twitter: @SJKincaidBooks
Kincaid's debut novel, an ambitious, high-concept melange of the teen hacker and teen spy genres (with some gaming elements included, too), occasionally struggles under its own weight, but still provides a fast-paced and exciting tale. Fourteen-year-old Tom Raines skips his virtual school, choosing instead to play VR games online and hustle other gamers. When one game turns out to be an audition for a military program, he ends up working for the Pentagonal Spire, with a computer chip embedded in his head, and hopes that he can one day become one of the elite students who guide unmanned drones in the ongoing war against the Russo-Chinese Alliance. Kincaid tosses a lot into her book--romance, cyberpunk tropes, evil corporations, military academy subplots, a "Who's the traitor?" story line, and goofy humor (a subplot in which one student, Yuri, has been programmed to process classified information incorrectly is particularly over-the-top). It's too much, and leads to a too-long novel, but the strong action and spy sequences keep the core story entertaining. Ages 13-up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 7 Up-Tom Raines, 14, moves from casino to casino with his gambler father, generally paying for their lodgings from his winnings at virtual reality games. When he passes a surprise VR scenario, he is recruited by General Marsh to join the Intrasolar Forces. Teens from the IF are backed by multinationals to fight for the Indo-American Alliance by remotely piloting spacecraft in battles around the solar system. He jumps at the chance to do something with his life and is whisked off to the Pentagonal Spire. There he learns that he must have a computer implanted in his brain to be able to fulfill his responsibilities. He also learns that his mother's hated boyfriend, Dalton Prestwick, is an important and ruthless figure among the corporate sponsors. Meanwhile, a new Combatant, call sign "Medusa," has joined the Russo-Chinese Alliance and is reaping victory after victory. Tom finds himself strangely intrigued by Medusa and violates protocols to seek her out over the Internet. He eventually discovers that he has an ability above and beyond his comrades to interface directly with machines around the Earth and beyond. It is only with this ability and the help of his friends that Tom is able to escape Prestwick's reprogramming, find the mole in the Spire, and defeat Medusa. Kincaid combines a Harry Potter-like teen discovering that he has unknown abilities being sent to a special boarding school with the Ender's Game plotline of humanity's space battles being fought remotely by juveniles. She adds espionage and corporate skullduggery along with multiple mysterious enemies to create a blockbuster of a debut.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
With its mixture of school intrigue and space battles, Insignia
reads like a mash-up between The Last Starfighter and Harry Potter.
It's exciting ... a good cyber-adventure for teens -- Will Salmon *
SFX Magazine *
Alex Rider meets Hogwarts in space in this futuristic action adventure debut! In the first book in this fast-paced and futuristic trilogy, S J Kincaid asks significant questions concerning the use of technology, the value of human life and if games really can save the world -- Julia Eccleshare * Lovereading4kids *
Blending hi-tech science fiction with all the familiar dilemmas of school life, Insignia is an original and entertaining debut novel. SJ Kinkaid rises to the challenge of writing about gaming in an engaging way, asking plenty of timely and thought-provoking questions about the role technology plays in our lives. However, this is ultimately a funny and very readable story about friendship which will particularly appeal to boys: the rebellious but good-hearted outsider Tom makes for an appealing hero * Booktrust's 'books we like for August' *
Insignia is Harry Potter for gamers, with a six-pack of Top Gun thrown in for good measure, and reading it was like playing an incredibly addictive video game - once I started I just couldn't put it down... * Book Zone 4 Boys *
Insignia is definitely going on my top ten favourite books of 2012 * The Book to my Heart *
Insignia completely took my breath away! Guys and girls, geeks and technophobes - everyone is going to love this book! It's absolutely amazing, and one of my favourite books of the year! You must read this book! * Once Upon a Bookcase *
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! * The Pretty Books *
This pacy, thrilling book is the first in a trilogy, but the reader need not worry about cliff-hangers. Every major plot point is satisfactorily resolved, the baddies have been put in their place and Tom is free to look forward to a future which may be precarious but is nonetheless exciting and full of promise. * Bookbag *