Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Vortex Audio

Vortex Audio

S. J. Kincaid
For ages 13 and up
Unabridged audiobook (Digital)
Performed/read by: Lincoln Hoppe
HarperAudio, 2013 

Another year at the Pentagonal Spire has started and Tom Raines is no longer a confused and clueless plebe. Now he is in Middle Company, and though he will have many of the same classes this year, they will be upgraded, just like the new chip he has uploaded into his neural processor. Tom and his classmates now have access to places in the Pentagonal Spire that they didn’t even know were there, including the armory. More importantly, this year Tom will have to do everything he can to convince the multinational companies that sponsor the CamCo Combatants (who fight WWIII in space), that he is a good candidate and that they should consider sponsoring him.

   Tom has already managed to make everyone at Dominion Agra hate him because of the stunt he pulled on them the year before, and he is going to have to behave himself if he hopes to capture the interest of one of the other companies. Unfortunately, when he and his classmates go on a series of meet-and-greet events at the headquarters of the companies, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Tom manages to insult and anger just about every executive he meets, and in doing so he sabotages every hope he has of becoming a CamCo. He knows all too well that cadets who don’t make the grade end up either as guinea pigs or as living computers. More than anything he wants to become a CamCo, but he has no idea how to redeem himself.

   Then one of the most powerful men on the planet, Victor Vengerov the leader of Obsidian Corp. makes Tom an offer. If Tom will upload a program into the processor of Medusa, the most successful CamCo there is, Victor will make sure that Tom will get to be a CamCo himself. In theory this sounds like a great opportunity, except that Tom and Medusa are friends. One might even say that they are more than friends.

   Tom feels pulled in many directions and as he tries to navigate the often deadly world he lives in he begins to appreciate that his father was right all along. Earth’s citizens really are pawns in the hands of the executives of the multinational companies. They are being used, manipulated, and thrown away. They are spied on day in and day out, and the companies are doing everything they can to keep the war going. Doing this gives them the ability to take away more and more freedoms from the people, which means that the companies acquire more and more power.

   Tom’s recruiter, General Marsh, asks Tom for his help to put a stop to this state of affairs because General Marsh realizes that if the multinational companies are not stopped soon, they will become unstoppable. The problem is that the only way Tom can be of help, is if he plays along. He needs to be on the inside if he hopes to be able to destroy the companies once and for all, and thus allow the people and legitimate governments to take back what is rightfully theirs.

   In this second book in the Insignia trilogy, J.S. Kincaid carries her story forward, developing her characters further. Mistakes are made and Tom in particular learns from these mistakes, growing up in the process. Tom comes to appreciate for the first time that he is part of something that is bigger than he is, and that he can no longer afford to goof off because too much is at stake.