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Literature / Insignia

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Insignia is a science-fiction Young Adult trilogy by S.J. Kincaid.

The planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay. . . .


The Series Include:

  • Insignia (#1) (2012)
  • Allies (#1.5) (2013)
  • Vortex (#2) (2013)
  • Catalyst (#3) (2015)

The Insignia Trilogy contains examples of:

  • The Ace: The majority of the trilogy's heroes are teen geniuses with some impressive achievements.
    • Tom might often act book dumb, but he has a potential to become a skilled space combatant and similarily to Medusa he is a technopath.
  • Action Girl: Medusa, Wyatt and Heather.
  • Affably Evil / Faux Affably Evil
  • All the Other Reindeer: Nigel Harrison, a loner who is mocked by his peers due to his unusual tics. This is the reason why he later leaks information on Cam Cos combatants, betrays Tom and tries to blow up the Pentagonal Spire with the spaceship he's controlling.
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  • Amazon Chaser: Tom seems to be this; Medusa's fighting skills impress him so much that he pursues to get to know her personally.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Heather wants to become the most famous Cam-Cos member. This leads her to betray Wyatt, leak information on her colleagues and blackmail Tom to help her win Capitol Summit by backstabbing Medusa.
  • An Arm and a Leg / Artificial Limbs: In Vortex Tom gets cybernetic fingers.
  • Anti-Hero: Tom Raines is an undeniably good person, despite the fact that he's arrogant, constantly gets into conflicts and wins a space duel with Medusa by hacking cameras and publically exposing her disfigured face.
  • Arch-Enemy: Tom acts as one to Karl Masters and Blackburn. Oficially Medusa could be one as well, although her relationship with Tom is nowhere as antagonistic.
    • Vengerov to Blackburn.
  • Asshole Victim: Heather Akron in Vortex. Her plan to blackmail Tom into helping her win her Capitol Summit fight with Medusa ends with her career being destroyed, losing sponsorship and then being murdured by Blackburn in order to keep Tom's secret away from Vengerov.
  • Beta Couple: Wyatt Enslow and Yuri Sysevich. Even though Yuri was unwittingly made Vengerov's spy, unlike Tom and Medusa they aren't fighting for two opposing sides of an international war and are allowed to meet without being charged for treason.
  • Betty and Veronica: Medusa (Veronica) and Heather Akron (Betty) to Tom's Archie. While both Medusa and Heather are action girls, Medusa is a more dangerous option due to being a world famous space combatant fighting for the opposing side in the international conflict.
    • Betty and Veronica Switch: In "Vortex" Heather turns out to be a romantic false lead; moreover, she threatens him with revealing his secret abilities to the corporations if he won't help her win the Capitol Summit. Medusa, on the other hand, is loyal despite the fact that he's American and she's Russo-Chinese.
  • Big Bad: While in Tom's perception the members of the Russian-Chinese alliance are the bad guys, the background information states that the galactic war is in fact between different corporations who fight over Earth's resources, and are not only responsible for the current war, but also for famine and genocide.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The moment Medusa rescues Tom, Wyatt and Vik from Obsidian Corp.'s headquaters on Antarctica.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Lampshaded. Lieutenant Blackburn goes so far as to kill a teenage girl to preserve his chance at revenge, but also eventually brings about the downfall of a corrupt oligarchy.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending
    • A downplayed example when it comes to Insignia; Tom is able to stay in the Spire after winning a duel with Medusa and alongside Wyatt, Vik and Yuri, he is promoted. The only thing is that in order to win, he publicly exposed her face.
    • In Vortex. Tom, Wyatt and Vik manage to escape from Obsidian Corp. with Medusa's help and destroy the transmitter. Yuri gets a new neural processor and fully recovers. However, Vengerov knows that someone can interface with his system.Tom is subsequently forced to pretend to go along with his wishes incapacitating Medusa with a virus in order to remove suspicion that she's the mysterious ghost in the machine.
  • Brainy Brunette: Wyatt Enslow, who's extremely skilled when it comes to compute programming.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Yuri Sysevish; when his friends find out Vengerov has been doing some spying in the Pentagonal Spire using Yuri as an unwitting pawn, Obsidian Corp. takes control of him.
  • Broken Ace: While Medusa is (next to Tom) one of the most talented fighters in the series, but appears quite broken due to the extensive burn scars she has.
  • Character Death: In Vortex Blackburn throws Heather down a vactube. Tom is well aware how she will die.
  • Character Development
    • In Vortex Elliot willingly defects from military and freely expresses his rather critical opinion about the corrupt corporations.
    • Tom, especially at the end of Vortex. He becomes less defiant, arrogant and even pretends to work with Vengerov in order to save Medusa.
  • Characterization Marches On: In "Insignia" Heather is merely a member of the Camelot Company who Tom has a crush on, and affably evil at worst. Future installments expand on her personality; Allies reveals her former friendship with Wyatt, whom she wanted to use for personal benefit. In Vortex Heather leaks humiliating information on her Cam-Cos colleagues to degrade their public image, bullies Wyatt, proceeds to blackmail Tom into helping her win the Capitol Summit by incapacitating Medusa and after refusing to have her memory modified, she is killed by Blackburn so that Tom's secret ability can be safe from Vengerov.
  • Child Soldiers: Elliot, Karl, Heather and other members from Cam Cos, as well as their Russo-Chinese counterparts who fight space battles are teenagers. Justified, since electronical devices can be installed only in children and teenagers - adults either die or similarily to Blackburn become mentally unstable.
  • Cool Old Guy: Marsh.
  • Darker and Edgier: Vortex takes a significantly darker tone than the cheerful, light-hearted ''Insignia''.
  • Dating Catwoman: Tom and Medusa in Insignia; they meet through the internet, fight online and are genuinely friendly to each other despite fighting on two opposing sides of the international war.
  • Defiant to the End: One of Tom's defining traits.
    "Those are some of the most powerful people in the world, and you swamped them in sewage!"
  • Disney Villain Death: Well, Heather isn't as villainous as Vengerov, but being thrown down a vacuum train tube fits this trope to a tee.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Well, Blackburn is more of a good is not nice variant, however, he does save Tom's life and even though he knows that Yuri has Vengerov's transmitter in his brain, he won't take it out knowing that this would likely end up killing the kid. Vengerov on the other hand fries his brain, keeping his promise to remove Yuri's neural processor from the Spire.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The multinational corporations that form the two alliances. Both are corrupt oligarchies, compete over power and install neural processors in kids which they use to fight space battles.
  • Facial Horror: The reason why Medusa doesn't want to reveal herself to Tom, is because half of her face is covered with scars from a fire.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Tom Raines (choleric), Vik Ashwan (sanguine), Wyatt Enslow (melancholic) and Yuri Sysevich (phlegmatic).
  • Friendless Background: Implied that prior to the series Tom didn't have any friends his own age.
  • Grew a Spine: Elliot initially was obedient regarding the military's orders; only later he claimed to have destroyed the skyboards (something Tom was responsible for) and publicly criticised the multinational corporations.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tom and Vik.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Heather's plan of blackmailing Tom ends with her career being destroyed, losing sponsorship and a looming danger of being reprogrammed like Nigel Harrison. As she later attempts to get away from the Spire without her memory being modified, she is killed by Blackburn.
  • Kid Hero: The majority of the main characters are teenagers ranging from 14 up to 17.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Neil can be as stubborn and reckless as his son.
  • Meaningful Name
  • Mind Rape: A constant looming threat for anyone with a neural processor. Happens to Tom several times throughout the books.
  • Missing Mom: Tom's estranged mother who abandoned him and his father prior to the series. The reason for this is that she was given a neural processor and her personality was wiped.
  • Narrating the Obvious: Kincaid does this at times.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Wyatt unscrambles Yuri's filtering program, unwittingly allowing Vengerov to spy in the Pentagonal Spire through a transmitter installed in Yuri's brain.
  • Official Couple
  • Parental Substitute: Blackburn is mplied to act one towards Wyatt as her mentor. He even remarks that Wyatt doesn't have much support from her parents and that she reminds him what it was like to be a father. It's sort of a tear jerker knowing that he accidentally killed his own kids after having a neural processor installed in his brain.
  • Pet the Dog: Blackburn in Vortex is a lot kinder than in the previous book; he saves Tom's life, comforts him and helps him, Wyatt and Vik to take down a brainwashed and crazy Yuri.
  • Sanity Slippage: Blackburn has one halfway through the first book. When he discovers Tom can mentally "hack" computer systems, he performs mind rape on him to find out more about it.
  • Ship Tease: Heather and Medusa are both Tom's potential love interests.
  • Sleazy Politician: The Wyndham Harks executives control the American government, transforming it into a corrupt oligarchy.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tom and Medusa, definitely. They fight for two sides of an international conflict and have met only on-line, due to living in the U.S and China respectively, at the same time risking a charge for treason.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Tom usually fullfills the role of the Wise Guy to Elliot and Medusa's voices of reason.
  • Tempting Fate: Tom's speciality; he's impulsive and doesn't shy away from recklessly sneering at his opponents. Even if they're called James Blackburn.
  • Technopath: A unique ability shared by Tom and Medusa.
  • True Companions: Tom, Vik, Yuri and Wyatt become good friends throughout the first book.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Allies reveal that before Heather joined Camelot Company, she used to be friends with Wyatt. Only as it turned out, Heather's ambitions were more important to her.
    "Wyatt stared at her. “You only sit with me now when you want something.” She stung with the realization. “You don’t want to be my friend; you just want me to do stuff for you.”
    Heather rolled her eyes, her lips curling. “Oh my God, that’s so pathetic. Are you this out of touch with the way people work?”
  • Woobie Destroyerof Worlds: Nigel leaked information on Cam Cos, installed a virus inside Tom's head and attempted to blow up the Pentagonal Spire with his spaceship because he felt resent and hatred for his colleagues that mocked him. His plan is to emerge as a hero and become the new face of Cam Cos.

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