I really wanted to like this story. I have read Enders's Gamer by Orson Scott Card three times and still consider it one of the best young adult level scifi books of all time. Much of Insignia started out very much like Enders. It had new classmates, bullies, class work, training simulations and dialog that is common with teenagers. The Harry Potter connection is in the friendships made, mischief and rule breaking, special powers, and how they protect each other from harm. There are also mean spirited instructors and rival classmates who will stop at nothing to make Harry, I mean Tom's life as miserable as possible.
I expected all of the lead up, character development and "getting to know you" segments to last maybe a 1/3 of the book. But no, nearly 75% of the book passed before some real action and intrigue started. I wanted more space battles and a chance for Tom to be extraordinary more often - to prove his critics wrong, to fry Carl with his "gift." Instead he spends most of the story defying authority and being subjected to humiliation' bullying and even torture by both students and teachers alike. It gets frustrating. I just wanted Tom to start taking swings at people. With that much ridicule I would have.
SPOILER: there's a happy ending and Tom saves the day but its an unsatisfactory conclusion and wrapped up quickly. The final battle sequence, righting the wrongs, revenge, and bringing some relationships to closure all happen in about 40 minutes of a 9 hour book.
Perhaps it has been setup as a sequel, and if it has I recommend the authors give Tom a chance to really act the part of superhero. Let his powers develop further and give him a chance to save the universe. Oh, and a hookup with Wyatt should be included.
Perhaps I'm being a little obsessive compulsive with my review headline, but despite a good story arc and well developed characters, I couldn't help noticing how many times the author used "he pushed the thought aside," or "he shook his head," or "he gritted his teeth," or "he cursed under his breath." Yeah, I know, that's not helpful to the review of the actual story, but I literally couldn't get past all those constant phrases without gritting my teeth. I finished the book and thought it was reasonably good military sci-fi. I might even get the next in the series, but even listening to it in the background while doing yard work or driving or any other mindless activity, my attention was always alerted when one of those phrases popped up. They were just too damn frequent. Perhaps once or twice per page. I've listened to more than 100 books from Audible and this is the first time I got frustrated with a story solely because of the frequency of a certain line or phrase. So if you can "push the thought aside" and ignore the things that bothered me about the writing, you will probably enjoy the series.
I don't give 5 stars out easily. But wow. Best book I've read in a while. Like others have said, it's a strange combination of an off-world Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender's Game set on a terraformed and inhabited planet mars, but it all works very well together. Even though the main characters were teens it didn't feel like a young adult book. This is an impressive debut novel from an unknown author. I can't wait for the next book in the series. Hurry up.
I can't add anything that others haven't already said about this excellent story except this...I have over 120 Audible books in my collection and Ender's Game is the only one I have listened to three times!
I won't take a lot of space describing the story as others have done. Instead I will say that this is one of those rare stories tailor made for a specific audience and done so to perfection. It's almost as though the author read my mind when crafting a story I would have done myself if I had the writing skills. Not only did I grow up in the 80s relishing every reference to old Atari games and movie references, but I also enjoy today's modern MMO games like World of Warcraft and geek out to the latest technology whenever possible. Yes, I guess you could say its more likely a "nerd love fest" but that's part of its charm. It has enough action and intrigue to stack up to cyberpunk and techno thrillers and by adding the elements that appeal to today's gamers, Cline has a masterpiece on his hands. Please, please write a follow up novel.
This story of enhanced humans had great promise. I mean, who wouldn't want to learn they had superhuman powers? The main character was likable and I wanted to root for him, but what a wimp he turned out to be. Sure, he found his strength in the end but he ended up on the short end of just about every fight he was forced in to, nearly beaten to death a dozen times despite his "powers" and vomited or got lightheaded from all the violence more than a frat boy with a hangover at sping break. If your given superhuman abilities wouldn't you try to change the world for the better and embrace them? The romantic element seemed forced as well and we barely got to know any of the supporting cast. The whole story justs seemed rushed and there doesn't appear to be a setup for a sequel. It read more like a short story that was rushed out to the public. On the bright side, I really like the narrator. He seemed right for the character and did other voices well.
Based on all of the 5-star reviews I expect a lot of disagreement towards my review, but I'm sorry, I couldn't finish this story. I'll qualify that by admitting that I'm a 40-year old with a 12 year old of my own and I tried to listen to this book on my own. I realize that it's written for the younger audience but most of the reviews where from adults so I took a leap of faith. I took issue with some of the basics that seemed to be missing. For example, what parent would let their 12 and 7 year olds go sailing through a dangerous reef at all hours of the day and night in deadly weather with Nazis looming along the shoreline? And if Nick was so responsible why would he spend hours on the sea without food or water? Those are just some of the things I couldn't look past. There are plenty of examples of young adult books that cross age barriers successfully such as Harry Potter and more recently Michael Vey. I had hoped it would be a rollicking adventure the whole family could enjoy but I didn't make it past chapter 15. Sorry.
I don't normally give 5-star reviews. In fact, I'm pretty hard on the authors I read. Even the great Stephen King has written some real duds in my opinion, but I'm pleased to tell you that 11-23-63 was storytelling at it's very best. There's a reason why it is a unanimous #1 best seller. Mr. King's style of writing has always been compelling but somewhere along the way he usually loses me. It's mostly as a result of pushing the limits of my imagination too far or overdosing on horror for horror's sake. I can suspend reality but only so much. But this is not a horror story in the traditional sense. In this book, even though the concept of a rabbit hole or rip in the fabric of time is completely fantastical, I didn't care. By the end of the book the way our protagonist Jake (George) moved between time was secondary to the missions he was trying to accomplish and even the most diehard theoretical physicist wouldn't question the science and would instead enjoy a very good story. It had just the right balance of action, mystery, romance and character development. Although there were a few holes and some better explanations were needed for the existence of some of the characters, like the yellow card man, this is simply Stephen King at his very best. Another minor nitpick I have is the drawn out ending. About halfway through the final chapter I was beginning to think it was a bit unnecessary, but then Mr. King wrapped it up perfectly. It's one of those rare works of fiction that ended in just the right way so as not to suggest a sequel. As for the narrator, well, he does character voices very well and his inflection, especially during some of the more heartbreaking scenes, was nothing short of great acting. He really brought life to everyone. In fact, now that I have finished the audio book I can't imagine anyone else narrating it. Craig Wasson was the perfect choice. Stop reading reviews and just get the book. You will enjoy it if you keep an open mind.
Like all books of this genre, you have to give up on reality and just enjoy the action. The Gray Man gets out of situations that no mere mortal can, but that's part of the fun. The best part about Greaney's books is the picture he paints with words. It's easy to follow the story as though you are watching a mental movie. I have never been to the places mentioned in the book but through Mark's imagination I feel like I have. I've read all three installments and though it is hard to match the original Gray Man, this one ranks right up there, and the story and character development was better than the other two. The only thing that keeps this from being 5 stars (besides the fact that I never give 5 stars to anything) is the lack of a connection back to the CIA side of things. The one bit of help he received from the CIA operative in the middle of the novel seemed a bit contrived and added at the last minute to loosely connect this story with the rest of the challenges the protagonist faces. I'm also a little surprised by the "career path" Court Gentry's love interest took. Just like that, in a couple of sentences she was no longer in the picture. Regardless, Mark Greaney's writing is improving. One has to suspend belief to enjoy these books, but as long as the Gray Man stories don't start crossing over into the paranormal or fantastical (like author James Rollins) I will keep reading.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit I not only listened to but really enjoyed this book seeing as it's classified in the young adult genre. I'm 42 and the father of a 12 year old but I couldn't put it down. The story itself is gripping (don't we all wish we had super powers?) and the action is nicely paced. The character development, which is normally lacking in an action novel, was just enough. The narrator was terrific. It's obvious this story will draw comparisons to the TV series Heroes, and I agree with that comparison. I can only assume this story was conceived by the author long before the TV show otherwise I'd be a little disappointed with the "save the cheerleader, save the world" aspect of the Michael Vey story. Surely Mr. Evans could have been more original. But be that as it may, Mr. Evans is on to something. Clearly this will be a multi-volume work and if the first book is any indication, this will be a very popular series. Give it a try. I'll bet you like it and if not, your teenagers certainly will.
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