February 28, 2014

Epic Recs Review: Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Feature created by Amber and Judith, Graphic created by Judith
So Lisa and I picked books for each other at the beginning of this month and, now, at the end of this month, we present you with our thoughts on the books we Epically Rec'd to each other. To check out Lisa's thoughts on my pick for her (Where She Went by Gayle Forman), click HERE.

Title: Insignia (Insignia #1)
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Release Date: July 12th, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Page Count: 446
Source: Borrowed from the library
First Reaction: WHOA. Just. Whoa.
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?

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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
Tom Raines is your average 14 year old boy. He's skinny, short, acne-ridden, and a total video game addict. I mean, I guess his life is less than average, though, because his dad's a gambler, which basically makes Tom poor and homeless. Oh, and also, Tom lives in a futuristic world where technology has advanced so much that the government is implanting neural processors in kids brains and using said kids to fight World War III in space. Of course, the average joe doesn't know the technology implant part. And neither does Tom until he's recruited to join said program. That's when Tom becomes part human, part computer, and joins up to, more or less, become a professional army gamer with consequences. But, obviously, not everything's as easy as that and that's where trilling sci-fi bits come in with this book.

So we don't actually know when in the future this book takes place, just that it happens in the future. It's also in a world where the countries are ruled by corporations and government as we have it today doesn't really exist. It's all just been privatized. And I buy that. I also buy all the computer advancements, and how everything got to the way it is in the book because of the way S.J. Kincaid gave over all said information - through the classroom. What happens to Tom physically is explained to him before it happens (since he chooses to join this program), so we know. Tom still has to go to class and learn all this stuff so he can be a useful part-boy part-machine thing, so we know all of that also. Honestly, I'm so pleased everything was spelled out this way, because otherwise I would've had no idea what was going on at all.

There is a lot of serious stuff in this book. First of all, Tom has to decide if he wants to become part computer and what that means. I  mean, what are the ethics there? I don't even want to touch that with a ten foot pole. And then, if you're part computer, can you imagine the kinds of virus's you'd end up with? We're in the day and age when WikiLeaks happens and government facilities are hacked. Would you really want to be a computer in all of this? There's also the way the war is being fought, in outer space. The government makes it sound like it's okay because no one's getting hurt anymore, but is it really? What are you doing to the universe with all this space stuff? How can we know? And there are all these corporations, which now run the show. They do a lot of awful things and no one polices them at all - which really doesn't seem too farfetched and kinda scares me a bit. So, yeah. Lots of seriousness in this book.

I think the best part about this book is how full it felt. There was a lot of plot in this book and none of it felt rushed. I think the only bit I could have done without was everything with Heather. I really hope she plays a larger role in the rest of the series, otherwise I'm not so sure why her character couldn't have collapsed into someone else's, but whatever. That's not the point. The point is that this book skillfully juggled many plot point - many of which were very sneaky. There's Dalton and his sneakiness. Medusa and the games she plays (literally). Also, all of Tom's teachers are constantly playing the blackmail game and it's unbelievably twisted. You really never know who you can rely on. Except for Tom. And his friends. I love his friends, especially Beamer, who brings up all the ethical stuff and tosses in a whole lot of ethics among the sneakiness. 

Okay, so there aren't a lot of swoons in this book, but the relationship between Tom and Medusa is amazing. It's so layered and complex and utterly unhealthy that I can't help but want to know more, more, more about it. I'm about as addicted to their interactions as Tom is to beating Medusa. Which means I'm pretty seriously addicted. 

Lisa had a couple of questions for me once I finished the book. Check them out!

1. What character from INSIGNIA do you want to be your bestie? 
Wyatt. Obviously. I want her to teach me all of her computer knowledge and then we'll team up and basically take over the world with our combined hacking skills. It'll be great. Kitten viruses for everyone.

2. Be honest. Did you see some of the twists coming or were you O_O (like I was). No spoilers! 
I think what's great about this book is that you couldn't know where it was going. You couldn't know what was going to happen next and, therefore, everything that did happen next was a complete surprise. Which basically means this book was an extremely successful sci-fi read.

3. Tom isn't necessarily swoon worthy, but what do you like most about him?
I like how loyal he is. The way he protects Wyatt throughout the book is fantastic. And maybe some of that is his pride (which I hate - for good reason too, it's really his biggest flaw and totally hurts him throughout the book) but a lot of it stems from how much he honestly cares about his friends so, yay Tom!

4. There's a rumor that INSIGNIA might be a movie. If so, who do you cast to play Tom?
Okay. I want to preface this by saying I don't like fan casting and I almost never do it, but I love Lisa, therefore I answer this question. So, may I present: Austin Butler as Tom.

Obviously this is Tom post-computer-beautification business. But yeah. I think it works, don't you? He's always the kind of messed up kid in all the TV shows I've seen him in and I'd say Tom fits that bill to an extent. Also, I haven't seen him as the main character, just as a side guy, and I'd love to see what he'd do with a lead role. The only thing is: I have no idea what they do to make Austin Butler short and ugly the way Tom is at the beginning of the book because the man is flawless, but that's really not my problem, is it?
I'm pretty sure Lisa and I are the best Epic Rec partners of all time because we are 2/2 with these killer book recommendations. I mean, you've just read this post and then there's Lisa's Epic Recs review, which you should all now read. (Spoilers: I made her read Where She Went by Gayle Forman so I'm pretty sure you all know how that one went.) Honestly, I should just appoint Lisa "decider of what I read all the time" since I know that'll leave me reading only awesome things always.

Have you read Insignia? Did you love it too? Do you also think Austin Butler is the perfect Tom? Let me know all of your thoughts in the comments below!