Not just playing games: INSIGNIA by S.J. Kincaid

Posted 17 August, 2012 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 24 Comments

YA Science Fiction
444 pages, hardcover
Available now (July 2012)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books 
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine
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?


Positive: Teen boy protagonist. Tom. Is. Awesome. Coming from a rough home life (well, no home life, really, since he and his dad don’t have a permanent residence), Tom has to survive but he wants to excel. So, when an amazing opportunity falls into his lap, he jumps at it. Tom’s got a survival instinct like no one else at the academy and, even though he wants a “normal” life, he never quite lets go of that edge.

Positive: Gamer heaven. While I wouldn’t call myself a serious gamer, I do like video games (Skyrim, FTW) and this world, this academy, is most definitely gamer heaven. With ridiculously realistic virtual reality, real-life battles deep in space, and fellow gamers to geek out with, gamer geekery rules at the Spire!

Positive: Politics and intrigue. Even though the teens are waging the virtual war, it is still a war which means military and political shenanigans. Companies sponsor the teens (someone’s got to pay for the very expensive toys, after all), meaning plenty of money is changing hands. Tom and his fellow recruits are at the center of the battle.

Wish: A chip in my head. Recruits get a chip in their head that gives them access to All The Knowledge. Of course, it comes with some very bad side effects (like people being able to hack your brain–eep!), so it’s probably a good thing this wish will not come true, at least in my lifetime.

Overall: Fabulous! I will most definitely be putting this book into the hands of my students with high praise. Oh, and even though it seems it’ll be part of a series, this book can definitely be read as a stand-alone as it has a fabulous ending.

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24 Responses to “Not just playing games: INSIGNIA by S.J. Kincaid”

  1. Oh Mary I heard so much about this book and it makes me happy to hear you also loved it!! I have to meet Tom – I love POV.

    And .. I was a gamer once.. I played WoW (as in .. world of warcraft) for some time. Yes, there I said it! lool!

    Is there some romance ?

  2. I borrowed this one awhile back and really am super excited to read it now! I’m so happy to hear you liked it that much!
    And yikes! Someone hacking your brain?! Now that’s freaky!

  3. Even I have heard about this book but never got a chance to go through it, this time I am definitely going to pick this game to read in my free time.

  4. Ooh this sounds so good! I love that it’s a gamer I love games too and my husband is a complete game nerd >.< I’ve seen this one around and I really want to pick it up! Plus this cover!!! <3

  5. We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this book, but your review is what actually got us interested. Thanks! Sounds like Kincaid found a way to tap into a very passionate niche, and the story seems like a crazy mix of The Matrix with The Hunger Games with Legend with… awesomesauce! Even better that it works as a standalone. (Not necessarily because we wouldn’t read a whole series, but just because we’re tired of the heartbreaking cliffhangers.)

  6. My brother loved this one – and I have to say, your review is making me wonder why I didn’t read it! I love male protags, and I love gaming. So it’s a no-brainer. Awesome review, Mary!

  7. Yay! Glad you liked this one Mary! I’ve read some mixed reviews for it, but I love that it features a male protagonist, and I think I would probably enjoy the gaming aspect. The hubs is addicted to games, it’s ridiculous and I’ve begrudgingly become interested in what he’s playing:) Curious about the fabulous ending too, cheater that I am, I will most likely read that first!

    • I do love a good male protag. And gaming can be a lot of fun–if you have an inkling about it (as you do from hubby), that’ll only add to your enjoyment of this book.

  8. You know, this sounds kind of terrific!
    I like he idea of it and I love games too, I’m actually not a serious gamer in consoles but I love playing online (granted, I’m more in the the Diner Dash variety of games) LOL
    Anyway, this sounds pretty good and I’m going to try to read it 😀

  9. I haven’t gone through this book but as I love to play games and hearing good reviews to this book, I would love to give it a try.