Insignia (Insignia, #1)-S.J. Kincaid
“Gruesome murder always builds the foundation for a beautiful friendship.”
“Nah. Ugly. Face it, Tom,” Vik said, “no girl who fights like that can be hot, too. It would cause a huge imbalance in the cosmos that would unravel the space-time continuum and make the universe implode. And she won’t show you. That’s a red flag. Big, bright, waving red flag.”
Plot: Tom Raines is not your average hero. Living day by day in a downwardly spiraling series of virtual gaming, cons, and making just enough money to stay off the streets, and support his father’s dangerous gambling addiction, Tom yearns for stability, and finds solstice in the virtual world. In virtual games, Tom is more than a gawky, awkward, 14-year-old misfit with acne, he is a mastermind at beating the system. When Tom is approached by the Intrasolar Forces and offered a place as a new recruit he thinks that this could be his chance to truly make something of himself, to have a secure future.
In the midst of WWIII, the Earth is depleted of resources and war is now fought between big corporations in outer space, hoping to enterprise off of the rich minerals and substances of other planets. The Intrasolar Forces is a government special force that virtually fights for these corporations in epic battles that amount to the fate of planet Earth. These teens go through a series of training and simulations to prepare them as fighters in this virtual battle field. There are political bribes, and shadow wars between countries for space property. The biggest, best fighters are renown as saviors of humanity. Tom hopes to rise in rank, and make it to the virtual big leagues. Tom has always been wary of the government because of his cynical, jaded childhood with his broken father but has followed the war, eagerly rooting for the most creative fighters. Tom’s favorite is Medusa, and he endeavours to meet her. He doesn’t know how he knows she’s a female, but he’s almost positive.
Tom meets with Medusa and their relationship continues to blossom into a secret friendship that may or may not be illegal. But the danger is part of its seduction. Meanwhile, Tom builds friendships, and learns that though he gets in trouble for his insubordination, it’s one of his strongest assets.
Insignia follows Tom on his quest to be more than a homeless, geeky loner, to use his skills to save humanity, and maybe even get a girlfriend.
- The chemistry between characters is so easy, completely natural, and some of the best realistic dialogue I’ve seen. It’s witty, fun, sarcastic, and hysterically funny. Their interactions are relaxed, a flurry of teasing, and playfulness that draw you in and make it hard not to smile. Their fierce loyalty to one another even in the face of expulsion from the program or imprisonment is touching.
- [SPOILERY, stop now!] Tom and Medusa are perfect for one another. Their blossoming relationship is laid back, fun, full of competitive, aggressive attraction and reckless abandon for the rules. Their secret meetings are some of the most compelling, creative scenarios in the book.
- The premise of Insignia is innovative, ingenious, and has a little something for everyone. The idea that wars would be fought in the future through simulations off Earth to protect the environment, and minimize the casualties of war is a beautiful, really inspiring concept. Plus, the virtual reality, code writing, hacking, and mental training is wickedly awesome. This takes the dangers of technology to a whole new level, and makes them even more fascinating, and astounding than they already are.
- Gaming itself as a complex arena of sponsorship, manipulation, money, and a go-between for shark-like corporate powers is as thrilling as it is evil. The lengths that these world powers will go to get the most talented gamers on their side is sickening and yet, surprising believable. The corruption is slimy, and repulsive but one of the most realistic aspects of the system.
- The superficial emphasis on attractiveness was a little annoying. There are elements of clichéd, high school drama within the training facility but generally, the characters transcend their stereotypes, those who don’t are the enemy characters. The makeover is also a bit much.
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