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Insignia (Insignia Series #1)

Insignia (Insignia Series #1)

4.6 50
by S. J. Kincaid

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"Insignia expertly combines humor with a disarming and highly realistic view of the future. The characters are real, funny, and memorable. You won't be able to put this book down."—Veronica Roth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Divergent and Insurgent

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first


"Insignia expertly combines humor with a disarming and highly realistic view of the future. The characters are real, funny, and memorable. You won't be able to put this book down."—Veronica Roth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Divergent and Insurgent

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender's Game.

The planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kincaid's debut novel, an ambitious, high-concept mélange of the teen hacker and teen spy genres (with some gaming elements included, too), occasionally struggles under its own weight, but still provides a fast-paced and exciting tale. Fourteen-year-old Tom Raines skips his virtual school, choosing instead to play VR games online and hustle other gamers. When one game turns out to be an audition for a military program, he ends up working for the Pentagonal Spire, with a computer chip embedded in his head, and hopes that he can one day become one of the elite students who guide unmanned drones in the ongoing war against the Russo-Chinese Alliance. Kincaid tosses a lot into her book—?romance, cyberpunk tropes, evil corporations, military academy subplots, a "Who's the traitor?" story line, and goofy humor (a subplot in which one student, Yuri, has been programmed to process classified information incorrectly is particularly over-the-top). It's too much, and leads to a too-long novel, but the strong action and spy sequences keep the core story entertaining. Ages 13–up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (July)
VOYA - Bonnie Kunzel
As in Orson Scott Card’s Ender's Game (Tor, 1985), children are being trained for war in this impressive debut novel. In this case, however, it is an offshore conflict, meaning no loss of life or property. Instead, World War III is a VR war, with battles fought in space by drone vehicles controlled by earth-bound Combatants. The kicker is that big business, in the form of the Coalition of Multinational Corporations, rather than individual countries, is behind the conflict. Fourteen-year-old Tom Raines, who excels at VR games, is on the road with his alcoholic, gambling-addicted father when he is recruited to join the Combatants in the Pentagonal Spire. General Marsh is looking for an unconventional fighter to back up the high-achievers usually recruited for battle training. Tom is needed because the opponents have Medusa, who routinely wipes the floor with her opponents. Tom, a huge fan, would love nothing better than to go up against Medusa. He gets his wish, along with new friends, a new purpose in life, bullies to overcome, and a paranoid instructor who almost destroys his mind. From the conflict at the casino in the beginning to the high-octane battle to keep a traitor from destroying his friends and the Pentagonal Spire, the action is non-stop and the pacing, fast and furious. Of particularly interest is the developing relationship between Tom and Medusa, from respect for fighting skills to the recognition of similar traits, goals and interests. All in all, this is an extremely rewarding read. Ages 11 to 18.
VOYA - Laura Perenic
Tom Raines, the teen son of a gambler, finds that his gifts at virtual reality gaming have earned him a new life as a military combatant. His job is to protect his home by winning battles in space. Transformed by computer and medical technology, Tom improves physically and mentally to become a better soldier. Tom has no major achievements to set him apart from the other plebes sent to The Spire for training, but he decides he will beat nemesis Medusa, a foe only seen on the digital stage of war but never in person. With a spy in their midst, Tom is charged with treason; now he must uphold promises to himself and his country in order to keep his job and earn a promotion. Only by clearing his name can Tom continue doing what he loves. Kincaid uses Greek folklore to propel this complex story. Despite the inclusion of so many elements, the plot flows naturally, paired with humorous dialogue and Tom's own internal monologues as his character develops. The amount of technological language is not a deterrent and is used in context for clarification. Fast-paced battles in a variety of virtual worlds like ancient Greece and Camelot will excite gamers of all levels. There is no indication of a sequel; however, Insignia would make a popular series for readers who enjoy adventures, science fiction, and espionage. Reviewer: Laura Perenic
Kirkus Reviews
An unlikely teen is selected to attend Hogwarts-at-the-Pentagon. Tom has spent most of his life casino-hopping with his ne'er-do-well father. His only real pleasure is virtual-reality gaming, and his mad skillz bring him to the attention of the U.S. Intrasolar Forces. In short order he is off to the Pentagonal Spire to train to become a Camelot Company Combatant: one of the elite teen "warriors" who pilot the remote spacecraft that wage World War III bloodlessly in space. The Indo-Americans and the Russo-Chinese are propped up by multinationals that fund the enterprise; the neural processors implanted in the kids' brains--not to mention war itself--aren't cheap. Tom quickly makes friends (warm and funny boy, Asperger's-like girl, goofy boy) and enemies (vicious boy, borderline-crazy professor). He also comes to the attention of his mother's horrible boyfriend, an executive in a multinational that wants a pawn on the inside of CamCo. In addition to obvious echoes of Ender's Game and Harry Potter, debut novelist Kincaid weaves in hefty helpings of Cory Doctorow–like philosophy: "What, you think the American sheeple are going to question the corporatocracy?" Tom's father says memorably. With action, real humor and a likable, complex protagonist, this fast-moving, satisfying adventure also provides some food for thought. Derivative and sometimes a little silly, but good fun nevertheless. (Science fiction. 13-16)
Rae Carson
“Hip, high-tech, and hilarious, INSIGNIA made my heart soar and left me with impossible-to-shake questions about technology, reality, and war.”—Rae Carson, author of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS
Veronica Roth
PRAISE FOR INSIGNIA“Insignia expertly combines humor with a disarming and highly realistic view of the future. The characters are real, funny, and memorable. You won’t be able to put this book down.”
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Tom Raines, 14, moves from casino to casino with his gambler father, generally paying for their lodgings from his winnings at virtual reality games. When he passes a surprise VR scenario, he is recruited by General Marsh to join the Intrasolar Forces. Teens from the IF are backed by multinationals to fight for the Indo-American Alliance by remotely piloting spacecraft in battles around the solar system. He jumps at the chance to do something with his life and is whisked off to the Pentagonal Spire. There he learns that he must have a computer implanted in his brain to be able to fulfill his responsibilities. He also learns that his mother's hated boyfriend, Dalton Prestwick, is an important and ruthless figure among the corporate sponsors. Meanwhile, a new Combatant, call sign "Medusa," has joined the Russo-Chinese Alliance and is reaping victory after victory. Tom finds himself strangely intrigued by Medusa and violates protocols to seek her out over the Internet. He eventually discovers that he has an ability above and beyond his comrades to interface directly with machines around the Earth and beyond. It is only with this ability and the help of his friends that Tom is able to escape Prestwick's reprogramming, find the mole in the Spire, and defeat Medusa. Kincaid combines a Harry Potter-like teen discovering that he has unknown abilities being sent to a special boarding school with the Ender's Game plotline of humanity's space battles being fought remotely by juveniles. She adds espionage and corporate skullduggery along with multiple mysterious enemies to create a blockbuster of a debut.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Insignia Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.40(d)
HL750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years


What People are Saying About This

Veronica Roth

PRAISE FOR INSIGNIA“Insignia expertly combines humor with a disarming and highly realistic view of the future. The characters are real, funny, and memorable. You won’t be able to put this book down.”

Rae Carson

“Hip, high-tech, and hilarious, INSIGNIA made my heart soar and left me with impossible-to-shake questions about technology, reality, and war.”—Rae Carson, author of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

Meet the Author

S. J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire. She also interned for a politician in Washington, DC, and received degrees from universities in Illinois and Ohio, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, that she realized she wanted to be a writer. Several years, several manuscripts, and several jobs later, Ms. Kincaid now lives in Chicago, and Vortex is her second novel in the Insignia trilogy

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Insignia 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
MrsHeise-HeiseReads More than 1 year ago
INSIGNIA is one of those books that was really hard to stop reading at night to go to sleep-I never wanted to stop turning the pages as it was a nonstop thrill ride in a virtual reality, corporate-sponsored, dystopic future. At first, I was a little intimidated by the world the author created – because there are some corporations and sponsors and military terms that I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep track of, but it ended up being surprisingly easy to follow. This is definitely a plot-driven book, and at 464 pages, there’s a lot of plot. I was worried I’d get to parts where I didn’t really care or they felt slow, but that never happened! There was always some sort of action (either virtual or real) that kept the pacing moving forward at a perfect speed. The descriptions of the settings were perfectly done, and I especially liked all of the historical (including mythological) references in all of the virtual reality training scenarios. It was such fun to see how the characters interacted with these simulations, and nicely provides some subtle history lessons for students reading this book as well. This book has elements of a fish out of water story (kind of in a Harry Potter way of discovering a new “school” and people and how you’re changing because of it), corporate and political intrigue, an awkward teen wanting to be accepted, friendship, power, control, life or death fights, and the fate of multinational corporations and alliances hanging in the balance (no pressure there!). The author wielded a deft hand at balancing the action, technological, and teen self-esteem/friendship elements of the story in a way in which none felt over or underdone. There were also some great comedic moments to balance it all out as well. The characters really make this book though. All the action and excitement and plot an author could add, won’t make a difference if I don’t care about or like the characters. And in this book, I loved the characters. I adore Tom and was rooting for him the whole way, and the secondary characters who are his friends were so entertaining. There were some great teen girl supporting characters as well, and what I really liked was that they were actually some of the better computer programmers. And Vik, as Tom’s roommate at the new school, provides great comic relief in the midst of serious situations. INSIGNIA is just an exciting book, and a scary look at a future that might not be too far off. I absolutely loved it and can't wait for more people to read it and start talking about this fabulous debut! This is a book that my students (especially boys) who are into gaming or computers will love. I will be adding it to my “you liked this, try this...” list with BRAIN JACK by Brian Falkner, TEEN, INC. by Stephen Petrucha, and EPIC by Conor Kostic. I’d also recommend it to those who liked DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (both books have the same editor at HarperCollins!). I'm so glad to hear this one is going to be a trilogy because I can’t wait to see what happens after the big finale of this one (but thankfully, no cliffhanger ending)! Make sure to add this one to your list of July releases you’ll want to read! Review originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends
Sunden More than 1 year ago
Insignia was, to put it plainly, fantastic. It has rightfully earned a spot in my top ten books list and shows no signs of dropping out of it anytime soon. Even though it was pretty long by most people's standards, it never slowed or dragged at all. This is certainly one of those books that you should not start right before going to bed. The characters were easy to relate and connect with, and Kinclaid managed to somehow create a sort of "hero" of a story that has plenty of flaws without overdoing anything. I was concerned part way in that what with the coalitions, and alliances and all that, that it would become too difficult to follow, but Kinclaid did a great job explaining it. One of my favorite parts of the books was the way Kinclaid spun her dialogue. It was funny, real, and flowing. You almost could imagine yourself right there with the characters. Honestly, I won't be forgetting this book anytime soon. It was so good, that after I finished it the first time, I read it again. And once more. This is a definite buy you won't regret.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. The first few pages made me want to keep on going. And I did. Look forward to a sequel. I also gave this book to my 12 year old grandson and he could not put it down. He loved it.
BNMaggie More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic! It had everything a reader could ask for: characters that the reader will really love, a plot that kept producing unexpected twists, themes about where science and politics may take us in the future as well as the possible consequences of our stewardship (or lack thereof) of the resources of the Earth, and a fantastic ending. I could not recommend this more highly to teens or adults.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1. Get the book 2. Read the book 3. Love the book This is a trademark of Eldridge incorparated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thus is better than many books that have movies this book needs a sequel and a movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book's story as well as its concept: war is no longer fought with people killing each other. Instead, battles are fought remotely in spaceto avoid any collateral damage or civilian deaths. The ships are controlled by teenagers with computers implanted in their heads that regulate evrything from information processing to eyebrow motions and blinking, as well as allowing them to interface with any electronics that are optimized for their neural processor. The friendships in this story are surprisingly realistic, as are the conflicts. The author obviously has had experience with describing emotions and bonds. I felt the ending felt a bit rushed and left me hanging, but this should be repaired in the sequel, which is coming out mid-2013.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being military for sevral years, and a big fiction lover. This was a true reading rush with amazing adventure and ossibility of truth in the words. I can not wait to read her next book. Please please continue to write more of these types not enough out there!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a bit, Ender's Game meets Last Star-Fighter meets Hackers. And I enjoyed it so. The Pros: The MC, Tom, is a bit cocky, a lot stubborn, and desperate to be someone, but through all his over-compensations, his character doesn't alienate you, in fact you cheer Tom on, while understanding his motivations. Tom has friends, they have funny dialogue, they have a very male rapport, which means his friends care and intervene, but they aren't going to get all touchy-feely about it. The sense of camaraderie and establishing pecking orders and the stress of competition, I thought played out really well. In a lot of YA books, people are always blessed with these amazing fighter skills and good looks. And though Tom get's a lot of abilities handed to him, when he joins up, he still has to work really hard to get where he wants to be. He doesn't execute everything flawlessly, and know everything perfectly, and that makes him more real. Also I liked the diversity of the three main girls that Tom came into contact with, there was a typical, feminine wiles to get her way kind of character, a very socially stunted but brilliant girl that they unintentionally befriend, and then a girl that's is his equal and then some, who manages to be tough, but not, like in many movies/books, where a "tough female" caricature is trying way to hard on screen in tight black leather pants. The Cons: The world-building didn't have me completely into it. Basically, there aren't really any nations so much as there are giant corporations who have monopolies on everything. There's a chemical in the water, if you don't pay the corporation for drinking the water, then they will, bomb your entire nation out of existence. Everyone is fighting over space, as in solar systems and outer space - I don't know if they addressed why, or if I missed the benefits of "owning" the solar system, there wasn't a mention if the reason for this was something like exporting or colonizing other planets. Instead of using people, they use big machines to try and strategically win against each other, via teenagers with neural implants. Again...wouldn't that just lead to a world where all the corporations spent all their money on building more complex and giant machinery...are their rules of conceding defeat? I'm a bit murky on how this system actually works. And this is so very minor, but in the beginning where we meet Tom, I would have liked just a tiny bit more set-up into his personality and motivations, in some ways he's a very complicated character, he has good social skills with his friends, but in the virtual world has a savage and vicious mind for strategy. Which stops him from being too much of a team player. His desire to be someone and something, seems to conflict with his absolute dislike of authority. The way the author sets him up, you understand his conflicts and motivations, but not so much his darker side. Maybe it's setting him up, in a sort of good versus evil conflict within his personality, or he will give in to making nice with authority figures to get ahead. I'm excited for the sequel to come out - I hope the author can ride the momentum and take this story to greater and bigger places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For the person who gave this amazing book two stars and called it slow - I very highly doubt that you can write a book with a sixteenth of the length and excitement of this book, so shut your mouth and keep it that way. On an other note, I loved the book, and I hope that there is a sequel very much. Thank you for the great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This makes for a highly intriguing read. A must-buy, this title deserves truly deserves those 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Normally wouldn't read scifi, but found this through a sampler and was hooked. Would recommend, have recommended.
Dream24 More than 1 year ago
This book was straight up a-may-zing I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find it. I picked it out today during one of my random strolls through Booksamillion with my signature oreo candy blast frappe and when i say I didn't understand the journey that i would travel with this book as my guide, i truly had no idea. This book is a futuristic setting, with realistic characters, full of adrenaline, immense wit, and plenty of teenage hormones. I for one have to rate this among my top favorite books and then cry myself to sleep because there is no known continuation for it.
booksatruestory More than 1 year ago
The beginning gave me this 80′s vibe because of all the Virtual Reality games that the main character, Tom, plays. The set-up is very similar to Ender’s Game, but the rest of the story was different enough that it didn’t feel like a copy-cat. There’s a lot of technical stuff and details at the beginning that made it hard to get into at first. The pace feels a little slow because there are some long historical passages about the world. I didn’t see how all these details could be relevant at first, but she utilizes all the details you know about the world to make some really cool conflicts. About half-way through, the pace picked up and the author’s attention to detail spilled over into the interesting, funny and sarcastic characters and their complex relationships. I flew through the last half of the book. The author surprised me more than once with some awesome plot twists. She did something with computers that I haven’t seen done before and then made it so funny. If you’re a fan of science fiction or video games (like I am), go grab this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book so many times. I laugh out loud during every chapter! I recommend it to EVERYONE!!!!! best book i have read in like 8 years at least and im 13! The second book is just as good and i read them both in one sitting each!
penKL More than 1 year ago
why do i have to give a review? i just want to give it 5 stars
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
Insignia was definitely different. It would be classified better as futuristic than dystopian, with some fantasy. You've got a world where World War III has started but where is the war fought? outside of earth. In the solar system. The Indo-American alliance is fighting against the Russo-Chinese alliance. However what's different about this war is that it is fought between companies, not countries. We've got some powerful companies in all these countries that are fighting for position of Mars, or Venus. Also, get this, there are no deaths. People don't die in this world because they use automated machines they control from earth to fight outside. They are all teenagers that hold the Camelot Company position. Our main protagonist Tom gets picked up for his gaming skills and enters this boarding school with four separate divisions (think hogwarts in harry potter). You get promoted to several positions before you enter Camelot Company, and that is what every trainee is aiming for. Now for Tom, all he wants is to fight against Medusa, a Russo-Chinese fighter that has been running in circles around the Indo-Americans with his/her skills. I loved how Tom was different and didn't straightaway aim to become Camelot Company. He just wanted to enjoy what he had and his new super brain. He made some great friends, pulls pranks, joke around, and just appreciate his new position. However when one company becomes interested in Tom, problems happen. I loved the humor in this novel. The secondary characters were such an entertainment to the readers including me. I have to admit the beginning was a bit slow and it bored me however when he started the school. Some of the tech stuff I didn't understand completely, but overall it was a very enjoyable novel and I loved how new and refreshing the idea of the novel was. I've been hearing that fans of Ender's Game will love it, but I recommend it to all YA fans. I am really starting to enjoy many male POV YA novels and hope this trend continues on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Rains a 7th grade gamer discovers that he has a chance to become somomone, somthing important. General Marsh sees that potential, and seises it... but thats just the begining. Tom learns that he can do sothing few ithers would say is imposible, but then again what are we without limits beyond borders...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this book after reading the introduction and became intrigued. I read the first page at the library and the next thing I know I'm a quarter into the book. I was definitly loving it and had to check it out. A day after I went back to the library to see if they had the second book. Yes it was that good of a book and I have to say that for the rest of the series. I most definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been reading a bunch of books lately I never expected to read. This being one. I'm into mystical creature books (not twilight) but decided to give this a chance and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't call it my favorite or even close but it's interesting and a good read. I like the characters though they are all either slow or american to me. I have trouble doing accents in my head so I tend to see yuri as slow when he's not! Toms character annoys me the most. Why is he so proud? Is there really anyone out there this bad? I feel he needed a bit more leway but then apparently it wouldn't work for the books. I like the chick they hang out with. She seems to have aspergers syndrome which I have lol. If you like futuristic stuff you could like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book in the whole intire world!!! I love S.J. Kincaid!!!!!!!!!!! #awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago