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.
WARNING: This review WILL contain spoilers for the first book, Insignia. Read my review of that one HERE!
I already knew, when I started reading this book, that there was no chance of me having the ridiculously enthusiastic reaction that I had to the first book. Still, I was excited to open the pages and get into a story I was sure to make me laugh. What I found was a plot in two, strange parts.
The book opens up after a kind of lull. Time has passed since Tom’s last great battle with Medusa, and things are starting to return to normal. He’s visiting with his father away from the Spire, and decides to use his secret abilities to attack a man who steals from his father. This gets him into a lot of hot water with Blackburn, who swears he’s trying to protect Tom – but Tom still doesn’t trust him after what happened with the census machine. Scary still, Wyatt is growing closer to Blackburn, while Tom and Vik might be growing apart. Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that Tom has to try to impress a corporation if he wants to ever fly in the big leagues – something he’s not very good at. Meanwhile, Medusa still hates him. It’s not exactly a good time to be Tom.
The beginning of this book is much like the riotously funny ride that was Insignia. I decided to read much of this into the wee hours of the morning, forcing myself to smother my mouth with a pillow before I woke the whole house up with my laughing. Tom, Vik and Wyatt are like a Harry, Ron and Hermione for a new generation. Their friendship makes the book for me.
The best way I can describe this book, though, is in two halves:
Part 1: Tom is the Boss
Part 2: Tom realizes he is not the Boss
It was almost weird, when the books decided to switch parts, how the gears shifted and the subject matter suddenly got more serious. Tom himself doesn’t take much of Part 1 seriously, choosing instead to follow his stubborn head over everything else. Part 1 is the funniest and probably my favorite part of the book simply because I enjoy laughing at Tom and Co’s shenanigans.
The shift into part 2 is a sudden drop. All of the sudden, SH*T GETS REAL. The swearwords are necessary. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes with what happened to Tom. And then Vik. And then Yuri and Wyatt and OH MAH FEELS.
And it’s legitimately at 50% of the way through. I know, I updated my Goodreads.
Usually, I am not a fan of books that differ in tone and content so sharply, but for Vortex it kinda worked. The whole premise is Tom finally realizing that his stubbornness is not a noble independence. He has to come to grips with the consequences of his decisions. I still think that it dropped too sharply, but there was never any question with the stakes after that. The stakes are high, high, high, and maybe Tom needed that boost to realize that he should think a few more of his decisions through.
I still think, given all those realizations, the end should have been a bit different, but I digress. It was a hellava exciting ending.
All in all, I still really enjoy these books. I can’t wait to pass this off to my 17 year old brother so that we can laugh over them together. Maybe I’ll even get my 13 year old brother to read with this too. I have faith. If you’re looking for a good scifi laugh with serious undertones, I recommend these books! I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the final installment!