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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Vortex (Insignia #2) by S.J. Kincaid

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Published: July 2, 2013
Pages: 400
Source: For Review from HarperCollins Canada
Rating: 4 Stars

The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.
Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.
Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?
Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid’s futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.

In short: Vortex by S.J. Kincaid is an excellent sequel that ramps up the intensity in the plot while still maintaining the fun and hilarity of its predecessor.
I was incredibly eager to return to the incredibly cool and imaginative world of S.J. Kincaid's Insignia series after reading and loving the first book last year. And thankfully, I loved Vortex just as much as Insignia! For those who don't know, the Insignia series is about fifteen-year-old Tom Raines who is recruited by the Pentagon to fight in an intrasolar World War III thanks to the help of a chip that has been inserted in his brain that allows him to remotely control fighter ships in space. It's AWESOME.

In Vortex, things aren't very much different from Insignia. As with Insignia, there are plenty of seemingly pointless - but incredibly fun - scenes with the simulations. Tom and his friends get up to the same kind of hilarious shenanigans. S.J. Kincaid's signature clever humour and inside jokes are also present again, much to my pleasure. The main difference is Vortex is a bit darker and more political than Insignia. A more concrete villain has developed, Tom is having to be serious about his future, and a hint of rebellion is forming. And all this is managed without sacrificing the fun and hilarity of Insignia.

Possibly the thing I was most looking forward to in Vortex - even more than the highly imaginative and cool world building - was the return of the gang: protagonist Tom and his best friends Vik, Wyatt, and Yuri. THESE GUYS. They have got to be my favourite bookish group of friends ever (after the HP Trio, obvs). I love each of them individually, as well as part of the group. They are very loyal (though they do occasionally have disagreements) and are incredibly playful and teasing with one another. They feel like real life friends to me!

Tom is a hard person to love, considering his many, many faults, but I do like him overall. His arrogance and stubbornness often border on stupidity, but his intense loyalty to his friends and his refusal to play by corporate rules are truly admirable. His highly immature antics are equal parts exasperating and amusing; he is just a fifteen-year-old-boy after all and I think a very realistic one. One that has to face the music in Vortex and learn not to be an arrogant ass all the time. Tom is a very memorable character and I credit S.J. Kincaid with coming up with a non-stock protagonist.

I had the same issues with Vortex as I did with Insignia: The story was sometimes slowly paced and bogged down with exposition and technological jargon that made the reading a bit rough. But overall, Vortex was just as much fun as Insignia while also ramping up the intensity and seriousness of the plot. Dystopian and sci fi lovers who like male protagonists and plots that aren't super romance-heavy would love this series!

Previously, my review of Insignia.

Other Review:
Nose Graze

Author Links:
HarperCollins Webpage


  1. Oh wow! I had no idea these books were THAT good. I'm glad you enjoyed both Insignia and Vortex. A good world building is always a great thing. When I first saw these books, they didn't seem like something I'd read, but you've made them look darn good, Aylee. I must give it a try! Awesome review, girl.

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  2. Aylee, I really, really enjoyed INSIGNIA, so I'm thrilled to hear that VORTEX is a great second installment! The world-building sounds epic, and I'm so pleased to hear that we get to learn so much more about the cast of characters. I'm in! Fantastic review, girl!

  3. I'm glad you are enjoying this series. I haven't heard much about it, but it sounds like a ton of fun.

  4. Sounds like a perfect read for me! I haven't read the first one, but I need too. Love books that have a good dose of humor -- always fun! The trio of friends sound awesome too. I love when friendships are favored over romance sometimes.


  5. Oh, this sounds perfect for me! By the way, have you read Ender's Game yet? I love the whole idea and the tech. And the WWIII xD I really like the sound of the friendships. I'm so sick of romances (unless they're playful) so this sounds really cool, and only second to the Golden Trio? That is IMPRESSIVE! Great review :)

    1. I haven't read Ender's Game yet! But I understand it is similar to this. Hopefully soon (at least before the movie)!

  6. This is a beautiful review Aylee! I love how you described Tom, I can just picture him and his boys and their antics, and can definitely see how they all would be both amusing and exasperating, but that just makes them feel real just like you said. Too bad on the technical jargon, I always struggle with that in a story, but overall this sounds like a fun series!

  7. I do need to get to this series soon! INSIGNIA sounds so fascinating (then again, anything set in space is fascinating to me), and it's great that the sequel was good, too. AHHH. Imaginative world building? GIMME. You haz hyped me up zo bads, Aylee. Love this review!

  8. I absolutely loved Insignia and am SO happy to hear that Vortex lives up to it! It's difficult to make a darker more serious plot and maintain the fun and light-heartedness from the first book, and I'm thrilled to hear Kincaid pulled it off. And yes, Vik, Wyatt and Yuri are the BEST! I love them so much!! Can't wait to dive into this one. Fabulous review! :-)

  9. I haven't read the first but glad to hear this was a good follow up and was still fun to read and had funny moments

  10. Oh, wow, I had a feeling this series would be great, but I honestly never thought it would be funny as well. It just didn't strike me as potentially hilarious. But now that I know it is, and that the concept is so incredibly awesome, I'll be reading the first book before you kow it. I can't wait to meet these boys.
    Lovely review, Alyee! Consider me convinced.

  11. Even though the story is a little darker, I'm glad that the humour and fun is still present. I really enjoyed the first book and have been looking forward to this one. Really great to see you liked it! Lovely review. :)

  12. Holy crap I can't believe this one is out already! I'm glad Vortex was just as good as the first one. You never know with the second book. :) Thanks for the review - I can't wait to go grab it!