Book Review of Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Posted June 18, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 10 Comments

Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
Pages: 444
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Source: Edelweiss
FTC: I received an E-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Blurb: 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 Three. 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.

Review: “444 pages is kind of long for a young adult book.” That was my first thought upon starting to read Insignia by S.J. Kincaid. I needn’t have worried. It barely felt like 250. I LOVED this book. Loved it. This is the first YA novel I have read this year that felt like a TRUE dystopia. There are plenty out there that claim they are dystopians, but what they really are is post-apocalyptic. And there is a difference, folks. So using this review, I’m going to try to give a small lesson while at the same time relating it to the book. FYI, much of the following I stole from Wikipedia. 

Checklist of dystopian elements that are present in Insignia:

~A society in a repressive and controlled state? CHECK.
~Pessimistic views of the ruling class? CHECK.
~Humans abusing technology? CHECK.
~Not being able to properly cope with said technology? CHECK.
~Unlimited power over citizens? CHECK. 
~Black markets? CHECK.
~Caste system? CHECK.

It is not a complete dystopia because individuality is not stifled in this society but instead encouraged. There are, however,  many more true dystopian elements found here than in many of the other pseudo-dystopians out there today. Also, there is not a lot of information present about the citizens that live OUTSIDE the Pentagonal Spire. But that was not really the focus of this book, and that’s okay. We might learn more in the next book.

Insignia starts out a little slow. The opening chapters are a bit info dumpy but they did hold my interest. What was missing was conflict. If you just read a little bit further, it will pull you in and you won’t even realized it happened until you are completely hooked. This book is like a slow burn that turns into a bonfire. 

At first I wasn’t in love with the character development. We don’t get a lot of backstory on many of the characters and they all felt a little cookie-cutter to me. But yet, somehow by about the midpoint of the book, I was in awe of the individuality and different voices each character had.  They all felt like real people and each had a unique voice all their own.

There are so many hilarious moments in this book. There are also some pretty intense moments. Ultimately, this is a story about friendship amidst some fantastically detailed world-building and brilliantly imagined technology. I am in awe of the author’s imagination. The writing itself does not particularly stand out, but the ideas do.

Insignia was a long book, but I blew through this one faster than most books I’ve read so far this year. It wasn’t perfect, but wow was it compulsively readable and I really loved it. It’s the type of book that when you look at all its components individually, you see flaws, but put them all together and you have perfection. It’s one of those books that just has to be experienced to be understood, and I don’t want to ruin it by giving out too much information. Look for a giveaway of this one on the blog sometime in July.

To pre-order a copy of Insignia from, click here: Insignia

10 responses to “Book Review of Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

  1. I love how your review described some detailed, justified flaws and yet it didn’t stop you from rating it a five. It just goes to show the author’s ability to distract you enough that you’re more than willing to forgive the book’s shortcomings.

    Great review, as always, dear.

    • Definitely! Rarely does it happen that I will rate a book above 4 stars if it has any flaws. But this book just bowled me over. Completely. I hope it finds a large audience. It isn’t getting much press yet. But it’s so goood. It needs to be.

  2. Amy

    Wow, what a fantastic review. I agree that a lot of the books labeled as Dystopian lately are more Post-apocalyptic. This book sounds really amazing, and I am glad that even with some flaws you loved it. I will have to check this out!!!

  3. Wonderful, wonderful review! I saw this compared to Harry Potter, but I really hadn’t seen an in-depth review until now. It sounds fantastic. It’s wonderful to find a novel that’s marketed as a dystopian and is actually a dystopian, and while a slow beginning isn’t fun to slog through, it sounds like it’s totally worth it. I definitely plan on picking this up when it releases!

    • I had heard that comparison as well. I kind of thought that myself, but I didn’t want to include that in this review because I felt it would actually harm the book. Comparing it to something as grand as Harry Potter…those are tough shoes to fill. But in a way it does have a few similar elements. Not many though.

  4. Wow this book sounds awesome. I am going to add it to my TBR List right now. BTW, I love your checklist. It would be fun to do that with all your reviews. Might get a few laughs from books that would fail miserably.

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