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 III. 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?
In S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced and humorous sci-fi Insignia trilogy, the earth is in the middle of World War III when teen gamer Tom Raines is recruited to train with other young cadets as a pivotal member of the elite combat corps, the Intrasolar Forces. At the Pentagonal Spire's training academy, he makes the best friends of his life—fellow government weapons-in-training Wyatt Enslow, Vik Ashwan, and Yuri Sysevich.
In this 47-page prequel novella to the series, budding genius Wyatt Enslow—intensely loyal and hyperintelligent if occasionally, hilariously, socially awkward—takes center stage as S. J. Kincaid reveals Wyatt's life before she found her place, and her own inner strength, among her devoted band of friends at the Spire.
The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom's loyalties are again put to the test.
Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.
Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?
Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid's futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.
The explosive conclusion to the series reviewers have likened to Ender’s Game and "Hogwarts-in-Space"
This exhilarating, explosive, and heartrending conclusion to the Insignia trilogy brings Tom and his intelligent, passionate, and brave young friends stunning tests and dangerous confrontations and through to an impossible future they could never have predicted.
Tom Raines and his friends are eager to return to the Pentagonal Spire to continue training for the elite Intrasolar Forces, but they soon discover troubling changes: strict new regulations and the revelation that the Spire is under new military control. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those now in control are aligned with corporate sponsors and their ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications, Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies.
Then a mysterious figure, the other ghost in the machine, begins fighting against the corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can Tom endure in the battle to save himself? He must decide if he can still fight when the odds of success seem to be sliding from his grip.
My first review of Insignia
This was a fantastic series! I absolutely loved it to bits, even when I wanted to rage at the world for being so unfair as to be what was in this (their world, not ours) because man, almost too much unfairness in this book, which makes the ending of Catalyst all that much sweet!
Olivia Ossare was pretty amazing. Facing against the military in their own base, and it seems like she was all by herself, but she helps the teens as much as she can-even though the teens say getting help from her means that you're weak. But she does help, and against pretty tough odds, and that' really courageous of her!
I really enjoyed reading Allies, because a) it starts before Insignia, so we got to see how it was before Tom came, b) we then get to see Tom from the outside, which is awesome, since most people aren't always aware of their moments, and c) that Wyatt put the chicken program on Karl and the others to repay that he kept the secret of her being the programmer!
The conversation with the net-send using the decagons was so hilarious! Between Tom, Wyatt, Heather, Elliot, and Karl, there were various things going on, like "send" feelings about each other, boobs, and how Karl wants to kill Tom, and Tom laughed. It was very funny! And then the other ones, too!
So Catalyst took what the whole series was about, condensed those ideas in this one book, and grew to encompass more and more, and grow deeper, and mean more, and at the same time, take us on a hell of an entertaining ride! I especially liked the ending, 2 of the below favourite lines are that ending! Things wrapped up nicely, things make sense, and while there was loss, there were gains, too, that exceeded the loss!
Favourite lines from Insignia: "This isn't how teenaged rebellion is supposed to go. You're supposed to shock me by doing something scandalous. Not by joining the establishment." Well, since you're anti-establishment, joining it is the rebellion! "There's a dead Beamer on our floor." Awesome sauce! "Then they descended on the girlfriend's house with helicopters and tanks and a gunship, I think, and gave her dad a heart attack" All because he snuck out when he wasn't supposed to, and they came to retrieve him, because he wanted to be with his girlfriend! "Yeah, I spell things while lawn bowling, you know. Words like 'lawn.' And 'bowling.'" Because those obviously go well together! "You going to die again, Beamer?" Yep! "It made no sense having Japanese ronins in a medieval English castle under siege by Scots,en, but he didn't care." But it's fun! "...Tom fell madly in love with Blackburn's podium. Just as he threw his arms around it and pledged his eternal devotion, Blackburn targeted his hippocampus..." Podium love for the win! "And I can't figure out why he kept programming me to obsess over her stupid podium. Maybe he's fixated on the podium, huh?" Yeah, more podium love! "Avast, ye scurvy knave! Prepare to meet yer maker!" Because that goes so well with Camelot Guinevere! "She can't. But Queen Guinevere can lower the drawbridge and order the castle sentries to stand down. Just like this Queen Guinevere did about ten minutes ago. Oh, and she can also send a messenger to the Saxon king to let him know Camelot's defenceless." There are not enough words to express how I love this plan, and how much Tom wants to fight! "Genghises. Large, angry Genghises." Yeah, that can be pretty run-away-from inducing! "Beamer had decided to attract a nearby crocodile. He'd waggled his tail in hopes of getting eaten. Tom saw Beamer eaten and decided to take a bite out of the croc's vulnerable eye, and in the process of manoeuvring, led it straight to Elliot. The older boy got gobbled in one bite." More!!! "I'd call you courageous, but I suspect you may just be a moron." Or a fan of her tactics! Because he is! "Enjoy the carnage. I know I will." I will, too! "I hope I'm not making a leap here assuming you have some." Well, you just said they were teenagers with grudges, what use is common sense then? "Wyatt went on a rampage. The Doctors of Doom can't let this insult stand." Even though she's a better programmer? "Other than the acute psychotic break, he's fine." Yeah, just peachy! He just has a very vindictive streak! "I know this is asking a lot, but try and stop humiliating yourselves." But it's so funny! "To his delight, the fames caught on a tapestry..." That is a weird thing to be delighted about! "But hey, at least you killed that frightened villager, instead." and "Oh no, where did you head go? Maybe it got tired of not being used." Aw, it's video game flirting! "I didn't blow up the Beringer Club. I just flooded it with sewage. With the Dominion execs in there." Yeah, and that was fantastic! "Gruesome murder always builds the foundation for a beautiful friendship." Yes, it does! "Yuri dropped like a falling tree, and landed sidelong across To and Vik's stomachs, knowing the breath out of them." Well, they're the ones who asked him to join them! "Then a zombie got her from behind, and Wyatt dropped across Yuri, her weight making up for the few inches she'd dragged him." And it kinda got worse, but they're all together! "I have bigger things to worry about right now so it doesn't matter if you're a SPICY INDIAN." So funny!
Favourite lines from Allies: "Apparently he’d confused Arthurian England with a pirate ship." Yeah. He did. So funny! "In less than an hour, Tom had transformed the dignified queen character into some crazed, psychotic warrior woman." That was just so laugh-inducing!
Favourite lines from Vortex: "Yeah, my thinking only went as far as booting the plebes out." Great thinking ahead! "The Vik statue clutched two very, very tiny hands together in a gesture of supplication, its eyes trained upward on the unseen stomper, an inscription at its base, WHY, OH WHY, DID I CROSS WYATT ENSLOW?" Yeah, why did you? "I'm not sure what that sucker is, but I'm going to call him ‘Big Bob." So smart! "Find something we can duel with in here so we can launch eons of dynastic Raines-Ashwan warfare." and "It’s not like we were going to start a dynastic war or something.” Oh, sure you weren't! "Before he smashed into the ceiling, he had a head. Afterward, he had something that resembled a smashed watermelon on top of his neck.” Slightly scary, but I can't help but find it funny since it's not real. “You outrank me. You shouldn't call me 'sir'." Needling the instructor is not smart! "I do not believe there is a coed naked romping court. You are inventing this." Yes, they are. But it's fun! "If you threw a big party in here, invited over everyone else who thinks there’s something okay with what you’re doing, and just blew yourselves up together. That is my idea of doing the world a favor.” Yes. Please do so! Using convicts as labours, and then extending their sentences to get a return on their investment? People who think that is a good idea should have that happen to them! "He and Vik dove for cover just before Captain Hook’s ship ran aground on Bosworth Field." Awesome mistakes in the programming (not the book, but the Spire training!) "By the time the Death Star filled the sky and blotted out the sun, Tom had put his pikestaff away and Vik had sheathed his sword." It's evolving! "Congratulations, Ashwan, you set off that bomb. Now you’re dust." Tee hee. Love that! "All humanity could be Jupitered one day. That’s as diabolical as it gets." Killed by Jupiter! Well, I hope this doesn't happen! "And wreak havoc they had." Pure awesomeness! "And you need to put that token of esteem back on your hand." Which sounds weird, but make sense in context! "Good! Vik friend. Fight hard. Strong Vik. Fight Tom?" Caveman simulation! Such hilarious conversations!
Favourite lines from Catalyst (which since it hasn't come out, have be winnowed down to these teasers since it hasn't come out yet): "Tom couldn't help it. It's Tom." Yeah, it is Tom! "'I'm not lying' Tom lied." Perfection! "If there’s one thing I've learned over the last few years, it’s how quickly even a seemingly benign situation can explode once you get added to the mix." This is so true! "Once, Tom and Vik had made a delightful discovery: Yuri Sysevich, who was awesome at practically everything else, sucked at most video games." This is incredible! The guy who basically is Superman, has a flaw! "The third time was not going to be the charm." Good! Don't want that to happen! "So we’re all crazy but Yuri." Even though Yuri's the reason why Wyatt has to have therapy! "Kapow! I'm on Mars!" And that stands up to Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon, how? Laugh! "You know, if you really do run off with some handsome alien, I'm going to follow you across the galaxy and start Earth’s first intergalactic war just to win you back." Figures love would cause a new war!
Yeah. This was a fantastic, amazing series, ones that will be a pleasure to reread again!
Author: S. J. Kincaid
Series: Insignia #1, 1.5, 2, 3
First Read: January 10th, 2013
Read: September 13th, 13th, 13th, 14th, 2014
Source: Own, Tuebl, Edelweiss
Reason Why: Rereading! And they're 2014 Dystopia Challenge Books and a Prequel & Sequel Challenge 2014 Books! Vortex and Catalyst are WoW Books, and Catalyst is a End of Series 2014 Book!
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Published: July 10th 2012, May 7th 2013, July 2nd 2013
Expected Publication: October 28th 2014