I’d heard S.J. Kincaid’s INSIGNIA pitched as Harry Potter meets Ender’s Game, and simply had to snag myself a copy. Having finished reading, I can definitely see the comparisons. A skilled gamer and con-artist, Tom Raines is snatched up by an elite military training program and whisked off to Pentagonal Spire. Here, he’ll train under the aid of an advanced neural implant (that makes him half-machine, in a sense), with the hopes of impressing higher ups and being cleared to fight for his country in WWIII–a global resource battle in space being fought remotely by the nations’ most skilled fighters.
This is a lengthy book, and until the plot kicks in, much of the focus is on Tom’s day-to-day adjusts at the academy. This is the side of the novel that felt Harry Potter-esque to me. We meet a quirky cast of students, some colorful teachers/staff, become acquainted with the technology of the Spire, and learn an awful lot about the world and its current state by way of lessons and conversation. Some of the fighting, training, and technology harkens to Ender, as does the premise of recruiting gifted youth to fight in a war, but the books are very different–there is no alien enemy in INSIGNIA. However, the real beauty of INSIGNIA lies in the quiet questions that are posed beneath the plot. Kincaid never shoves them down the reader’s throat, but by the end of the novel, many were rocketing around my head. About technology and where the line between human and digital blends. About war and politics and corporate greed. About virtual reality, and how it is as real as it is virtual. This was a fun, satisfying debut. I’ll gladly pick up the sequel and follow Tom through some more training next year.
Originally posted here