Insignia by S. J. Kincaid

Outside of reading, one of the greatest passions many geeks have is games.  I love to play video games and trading card games myself.  The library has a variety of books on different types of games that will help you learn how to be a better player, as well as gaming programs of all types for teens and children.  We also have a lot of good stories in the collection where a game of some type is an important element of the story.  One of recent titles that falls under this domain is Insignia by S. J. Kincaid.  Read my summary and review below of what happens when gaming is your greatest strength…and also your biggest weakness. 
It’s WWIII, but Tom Raines doesn’t really care.  Forced to follow along after his gambling father, Tom uses his superb gaming skills to win money and get them through another day.  He thinks it’s an incredible stroke of luck when he’s recruited by the military to be one of the teen Combatants fighting for the Indo-American forces, controlling ships in outer space, but all is not as it appears.  He finds that joining the combatants comes with a price: a neural processor put in his brain to make him hyper-intelligent and able to interface with the ships.  Tom reluctantly accepts, and is thrilled when the processor starts to make him into an ideal image of himself.  But will it be enough in an academy where everyone has the same processor, and is ruthless enough to do anything to win?
Fans of Ender’s Game will be attracted to the premise of this title.  Like that science fiction classic, Kincaid grounds the military and technological leaps with the character development of Tom and his friends. Tom’s key trait is that he can find the weakness in his opponent and will do anything to win.  There are times that this may be off-putting to the reader, but it also makes Tom’s growth as a character all the better when he realize others around him follow a different set of rules. What those rules are can be better or worse depending on the character and their rank in the military establishment. Tom has funny moments with his roommate Vik, difficulties dealing with Wyatt, the super programmer of his class, and can’t understand why Beamer wants to leave this life behind. The idea of a computer in your brain is pretty terrifying: Tom’s brain is hacked often enough that it becomes borderline routine, and seems to outweigh the benefits he gains from having the neural processor.  Add that into a world where corporations control everything and are really the ones running the war and the future is a terrifying thrill ride that is all too plausible. There are enough loose ends at the end of the first novel that readers will be eager to read the sequels.
Insignia is recommended for late teen readers.  Check it out at the MLK Library Teen Space or your local DC Public Library Branch today.  

--by Brandon Digwood