Review: Insignia

Author: S.J. Kincaid
  • Series: Insignia #1
  • Published: July 10, 2012
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Reading Level: Young Adult
  • Pages: 444 pages (Hardcover)
  • Source: Library
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?

Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

 The imagination and creativity required to write such a unique read is incomprehensible. S.J. Kincaid, all I can say is that you are a literary genius!

All Tom secretly wants is to be noticed, to amount to something. Instead, he travels around scamming people in virtual reality parlors by playing games to gain money so that him and his alcoholic gambler of a father can find a shabby hotel to provide a roof over their heads. He's a genius, brilliant at fighting games, but he always manages to flunk out of his online virtual classes since he doesn't have a reliable internet connection or the drive to succeed. Then a special segment of the futuristic US military crosses his path and wants him to be a soldier. In this futuristic setting, teenagers are the heroes because teenagers are the ones fighting in the space. Super computers are implanted in ones brain while they train to control amazing vessels in space. The one thing the world can agree on is that Earth cannot have anymore violence if they want to live. Instead, machines can fight in space to see which side can control the great unknown.

Besides the extreme level of creativity and originality found in this novel, what I really enjoyed was the sense of realism in a futuristic version of our world that will obviously never exist. All actions and emotions by the characters were believable. Tom's draft into the military was wholeheartedly believable. Even the description used to create insane simulations throughout the book seemed entirely believable. There was so much thought and attention to every little detail that I almost felt as if I was really living in this world. I never once felt as if the characters were being irrational or their emotions were fake. These characters acted like true 14 - 15 year olds, cracking jokes every second when they aren't focusing on training. The older kids used their looks to get what they wanted every now and then. Huge companies were constantly trying to buy smaller ones out to get bigger (flashing back to the past anyone?). The military has a lot of secrets that they don't want the world to know... but as a reader, we're luckily privy to it all!

Tom is officially my new favorite male main character. Despite his young age, he is rather mature because he is the one who had to keep his father's life together. He accepts what his goal is and faces it head on. He does everything in his power to succeed and he is truly brilliant. And he is not one you want to anger because he'll get you back ten-fold, ain't that right, Dalton? He's resilient and trustworthy, literally facing his death to protect a friend's secret. Obviously, his characterization is very strong and relatable, and the characterization of all supporting characters is as well. Vik, Wyatt, and Yuri are a gang that I wish I could run with for laughs and unlimited homework help.

The plot in this book progresses amazingly after you move past the beginning. I had a lot of trouble with the beginning because Tom was not happy with his daily routine, therefore I wasn't either. There were many explanations that I got a little bored of, though they are completely necessary to understand the rest of the book. Because of the amazing plot progression in the rest of the book, the beginning seemed almost out of place. Once we get over that hurdle, you won't be able to put this book down. The plot twists are insane, there are technological surprises around every corner, and most of the time you'll laugh so hard you may have to remind yourself to breathe. If not, you'll be preparing to bash someone's head in alongside Tom because the cast of characters, both good and evil, are capable of eliciting such strong emotions in the reader.

Last but not least, Kincaid managed to weave in a small form of romance when both parties lived across the world from each other. A fascination with the best of the enemies led to an accidental routine of meeting up with each other to practice, which then led to the complete denial of feelings ever emerging. This course was slow and deliberate and very adorable, though it was nothing more than a sub-plot. It is by no means a main focus of the story and it is not fast-progressing or anything of the sort. It's realistic for two young teens facing the challenges they do and it stresses the fact that you love a person for what's on the inside and who they are, not how they look. I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel, though it was slightly predictable.

I strongly suggest this book to any reader who is looking for something unique, especially those who love sci-fi. This is also easily a book that boys can read too. Kincaid has an amazing eye for detail and everything can easily be visualized by the readers. Full of science, technology, a slight romance, and even a tiny bit of mystery, nobody can go wrong with this one. If you're anything like me, you'll be beyond anxious for the release of the second installment in the trilogy.

I do like this cover, though I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of the color red. It draws you in because it has a lot going on and it makes you curious. The title stands out and the huge amount of machinery in the background hints at the sci-fi adventure within!

4.5 stars


  1. I loved this book. I love books with male protagonists. This one sort of reminds me of The Maze Runner. Both are fantastic books. Glad you liked this one as much as I did. Great review.

  2. Also, you have captcha enabled on your blog. You will get a lot more comments if you disable captcha. :)

  3. Great review! You have definietly piqued my interest! I haven't read many books with a male prot., the last one, was Touched and it was meh.

    I agree w/ Kara disable Captcha, and create a blog button, so I can add it to my list of, Blogs I <3 page

    1. Ahh, you're too sweet! I didn't know I had it on, so I'm disabling it now!

  4. I am testing to see if your CAPTCHA has been turned off...

  5. I am always up for a sci-fi! I've seen this around but haven;t really read many reviews. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  6. Well, it looks like I may have passed up on a great read when I picked this up at the library the other day, and then put it back down like a big dummy. I will have to rectify that mistake next time I am at the library. Thank you for helping me see the error of my ways! :)

  7. I just bought this book from Amazon, but was kinda debating on it, b/c I've heard mix things about this book, but finally the good won over the bad and I bought it! Thanks for the great review! :-)