Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



S. J. Kincaid
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
HarperCollins, 2014   ISBN: 978-0062093059

For two years Tom Rains has been a trainee at the Pentagonal Spire (the Pentagon that was) to become a part of the Intrasolar Forces. He has worked hard to develop his skills in the hope that one day he will be a CamCo combatant, but he has also managed to attract the attention of some very dangerous people, mostly by doing things to undermine and annoy them.

In Tom’s world, multinational companies and not governments are the real movers and shakers, the ones who decide what happens next on a global scale. They are the ones who sponsor the combatants, and therefore young potential combatants like Tom and his friends have to do everything in their power to win their support.

When Tom comes back to the Spire to begin his third year as a member of Upper Company, he discovers that a great deal has changed. A new general, Mezilo, is in charge, and he, unlike his predecessor, thinks that the students need to behave more like military cadets. From now on they will no longer be called trainees, they are cadets who have to behave like soldiers. They have to follow orders, not speak until they are given permission to do so, and follow countless other rules that Tom thinks are ridiculous. There is nothing that he can do about the situation though expect to do what he is told and to try to stay out of trouble.

Staying out of trouble is something that Tom is bad at doing. It does not help that he has a special ability to communicate with machines. For some reason he is one of the few people around whose brain computer processor allows him to get inside machines and control them. Having this ability means that he knows things other people do not know, and it certainly allows him to do things that no one else can do. For example, he has visited and spent time with an enemy combatant who, for a while, was Tom’s friend. Not long ago Tom used his special ability to hack some message boards. He called himself the ghost in the machine and the authorities have been trying to find out who was responsible for the attack ever since.

Thanks to his ability Tom attracts the attention of General Mezilo who tells Tom that they have put a new kind of computer processor into the brains of the plebs, the first year cadets. These processors are different from the ones used in the brains of the other cadets, and there are running an algorithm that ensures that the pleds obey the rules no matter what. Tom does not like the idea that the brains of the youngsters are being controlled. He is even more appalled when he finds out that the plebs are serving as test subjects and that plan is to offer the processors to people in the general population. If everyone has one of the processors in their heads then the company that made the processors, Obsidian Corp. will be able to control human behavior. People’s freedoms have already been curtailed a great deal. Imagine what will happen when they can’t even object anymore.

Then the ghost in the machine starts targeting the leaders of the various corporations, using their own machines to kill them. This time Tom has nothing to do with what is going on. Though he is not too upset that someone is out to get the corporations, he is shocked by the deaths. Nobody seems to know what is going on and nobody can figure out who is behind the attacks. The companies that manufactured the machines that were hacked frantically get their products off the market so that they cannot be used to commit any more murders. The only company immune from the attacks is Obsidian Corp. and a lot of people start accusing the company of being behind the attacks. So damaged is Obsidian Corp’s reputation that they have to remove the new processors from the brains of the plebs. At least the future enslavement of the human race is on hold for now.

Tom begins to hope that his life will calm down, that he will now be allowed to focus on his studies and his future, but this is not to be.

In this third book in the Insignia series, Tom’s incredible journey concludes. As the story unfolds we see how a hunger for power can corrupt human beings to a terrifying degree. Tom and his friends have to dig deep to figure out where they stand for and how much they are willing to tolerate what is going on around them before they fight back.