by: SJ Kincaid
Ever since Tom Raines' dad's luck ran out, they've been drifting from casino to casino. Tom earns money where he can by winning at the VR games. His mom has been long gone, the girlfriend of an executive in a multi-national corporation. And that's when things change. Tom is offered a spot at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy that trains the best to fight in World War Three. Though the promise of a constant home and meals is tempting at first, Tom discovers that he may be giving up more than he bargained for.
The best way that I can describe this book is an interesting mix of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It's definitely science fiction and is heavy on the computer and technology references. Which, is outstanding.
I was pretty immediately captivated by the idea of a war being fought in interplanetary space, but without the loss of human lives. Each side is fighting for control of resources out in space, and recruits children to fight using VR (virtual reality) machines. When Tom is recruited to join the academy, he undergoes a medical procedure to have a chip implanted in his head. He, and the other recruits, download their homework and have it processed into their brain through the help of the chip. It allows them to learn several different language and almost instantly understand math and science. But, it also makes their brains and their bodies vulnerable to cyber attacks and external control.
While I was definitely hooked on the concept, and even most of the plot, I found myself not sold on the characters. I think this is where the book definitely diverged from the likes of Ender's Game for me. Tom was a character I wanted to sympathize with, but one I definitely wanted to keep at arm's length. I'm not sure if it's the fact that he's a male narrator (I haven't really had trouble with that in the past, but it's possible), or exactly what it was. But, whatever it was, it caused the book to drag a little in parts when I felt like the plot needed to move on just a little bit. And there was a part at the very end (of which I won't disclose because it's a total spoiler), that made me completely detach myself from Tom. But, don't despair too much, Tom's friends at The Pentagonal Academy are well worth the read.
Fans of techno sci-fi thrillers are going to eat this book up. It's chock full of great technology, war (in a virtual realm), and twisted loyalties and politics. Give this to your gamer friend that claims they don't read. Maybe they'll change their mind. Oh, and the movie rights have already been sold to FOX.