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Insignia

Review

Insignia

In the distant future, mankind has extended its dominion into space. Oil production no longer reigns supreme, and huge conglomerate companies have taken over by controlling earth’s natural resources like food production and water. To protect the earth and people, the war for power has instead refocused into space where these huge companies use machines to fight over precious minerals and supplies on other planets. Although it may not be bloody, war is still very much alive and well, and governments will stop at nothing to produce the best fighters available --- even if it means implanting computers in the brains of children.

"INSIGNIA will inevitably draw comparisons to Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, but S.J. Kincaid manages to inject enough originality in her debut novel to make it stand out all on its own.... [I]f you’re looking for a great science fiction read, then this one is for you."

For 14-year-old gamer Tom Raines, war was the furthest thing on his mind. Tom’s washed-up, gambling-addict father made life difficult, and Tom spent much of his time finding ways to make money to cover basic needs. He accomplished much of this by beating opponents in online gaming, but unbeknownst to him, his skills also attracted the attention of the military. When the military makes him an offer to come and train at the Pentagon, Tom isn’t sure what to do. The computer implant in the brain freaks him out, but the chance for a real future wins him over, and he becomes the newest trainee.

Life as a plebe, or new trainee, in the Intrasolar Forces at the Pentagonal Spire is more than Tom could have ever imagined. The computer implant starts to rewire his brain functions, and he undergoes both mental and physical changes. He grows at least six inches in a matter of weeks, his acne clears up, and he also now has natural computer capabilities like a photographic memory and an internal clock. His training consists of entering into programs via the implant, and he learns not only how to physically fight, but also the importance of strategy and teamwork. At first, Tom is thrilled. He finally gets to be someone important in the world. Tom soon learns, though, that this new life was bought at a price --- a price he might not be willing to pay.

This becomes quite clear when Tom struggles to figure out who the real enemy is. The military tells him it’s a combatant called Medusa from the rival government. The private companies tell him it’s the military he should be worried about and that he really works for the people who bought his computer implant. His father tells him that no one can be trusted. Tom soon realizes that the life he always wanted isn’t as perfect as it seems. With no time to figure it all out, he will have to rely on more than just his implant if he wants to truly save the day.

INSIGNIA will inevitably draw comparisons to Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, but S.J. Kincaid manages to inject enough originality in her debut novel to make it stand out all on its own. The role of computers in the future is unknown at this point, but it’s not so crazy to think that they won’t be implanted in our brains. Plus, isn’t it every gamer’s dream to become lost in a game as though it were real life? Regardless, INSIGNIA has something for everyone, and if you’re looking for a great science fiction read, then this one is for you.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on August 18, 2012

Insignia
by S. J. Kincaid