Welcome back to Batty About Books - as we continue our discussion about Insignia. This book seems to be one of those books that appeal to one but not both of us... come find out why I am still enjoying it. Then check out The Brain Lair's thoughts to find out why it's not her favorite book we've read this year. As always, my thoughts here are in purple with her responses in blue.
Insignia - S.J. Kincaid
First, Kathy and I decided we’d like to talk a little bit about the “cover appeal” of the novel. In the future, we’ll hit this section prior to actually reading the book. For now, though... here are my thoughts on the cover of Insignia.
The cover hits a lot of “science fiction” buttons. The background looks like a computer processing chip, and there is an overlay of 0s and 1s. Even if I hadn’t read the book yet, it would definitely lead me to believe that programming and computers were an integral part of the story. The tag line “Impossible is just the beginning” makes me feel like there will be a Matrixy aspect to the tale. This is a book I can definitely see drawing the eye of science fiction readers in a bookstore. It doesn’t seem to be trying to pull in any “cross-over” readers, though. I’m not sure that people who don’t already read science fiction would gravitate to this book.
I’m still - even ¾ of the way through the book - curious about the image on the cover. It looks a little bit like a bird without a head. Perhaps it is an indication of the call name that Tom will receive in the book? I know he picked a name when he’s talking to Medusa and when I googled Mordred symbol - the bird like things seems like a stylized version of the top of Mordred’s pendant. Ack! I can’t believe I forgot that. Mordred seemed like such an odd choice, but now that I’ve read this section I can see how it fits.
Okay - back to my insights into section three of the book.
Sometimes I wonder if my thoughts about a book are colored by how long I take to read it. Am I being pickier about each tiny detail when I stop and take notes along the way? When I color my perceptions by trying to notice each little instance of how a female character acts, am I being too judgemental? When I’m specifically thinking about how information is shared by the narrator, am I less willing to just take the plot as a whole than I would be otherwise? I think this comes from analyzing books. This is why it’s hard to be on committees and only read your given books. You need to step away and let your mind relax and enjoy. You risk becoming nit-picky. As you will see when you read my section! :) I battle with this but my job is to spend the library’s money in the best possible way with the best possible books - some I find by reading them first and talking about them on my blog. Or just listing them as 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads. Being a part of a Mock Newbery group, where quality is STRESSED, also colors my reading. You spend lots of time looking at the craft as well as the story. The reason why I re-read - once for each. And sometimes I read books just for me.
(So much for promising to be less verbose this week so that I can get my thoughts down!)
Let’s start with how much I adore Wyatt, shall we? She’s now officially my favorite character in the story. I love how competent she is at programming. I love how she was reluctant to show her skills. I’m even more thrilled that she has now come out of hiding and is being recognized for her excellence. Girls so often hide their lights under a bushel. This is especially true of highly gifted girls, since they fear that their excellence will lead to ridicule and being ostracized by their peers (particularly, but not only, boys). Yes, she was trying to avoid being punished for her hacking, but it also reflects the way smart girls “go underground” by middle and high school. I’m so happy that she has found a way out of that quagmire, and I hope that she is able to continue to have at least a small group of friends who can understand and respect her for who she is. My favorite line from her this section: See, we’re dealing with New Tom...we hate him. (287) and also “He also said I could lead the discussion by saying empathetic things such as: ‘I feel you are sad, Tom.”’ “Are you sad, Tom?” I do like Wyatt. She’s the only female character in the book I do like. I marked that scene, but didn’t write it up. I loved that!
The Realistic: The scenes with Tom, Vikram, Wyatt and Yuri going to the museum struck me as painfully awkward but oh, so realistic. Wyatt is understandably sensitive and prickly about being taken seriously. Tom and Vikram are goofballs, and just don’t understand why Wyatt is upset. I read it and cringed for them all, but it absolutely feels like a scene that could have happened to me in late middle school or high school. Ah yes, Kincaid did well with this whole scene. The part that captured my heart was Wyatt’s questioning of Tom. I could feel the awkwardness and the hope that the other party can read your mind because there is NO WAY you can say what you are thinking.
The Unrealistic: Forget the virtual reality, I’m totally on board with that. What struck me as completely unrealistic was the scene where Tom was hiding under the desk in Blackburn’s office. Really? As paranoid as that man is - he wouldn’t have noticed someone hiding under his desk? Not buying it. IKR??!! He didn’t sense someone being in his office? Notice something wasn’t right? He was at his desk!!! He is a bulldog about security too! No one should have been able to get into his office so easily let alone use his computery things. This was just one in a series of implausibilities for me.
The Intriguing: I’m fascinated by the “Roanoke” reference that triggers Blackburn’s freakout on page 283. Blackburn is one of my favorite of the teacher characters, and I really want to know what this is all about. I find crazed, paranoid authority figures fascinating. I love how he insists on having students read real books, learn about the human brain to increase their programming skills, and his reaction to uncovering Wyatt’s identity. I mentioned this too! What does it mean????? Does it refer to the original “colony” of adults with neuro-processors? Or did he leave some people behind? Will we find out in part 4? I hope so!
Medusa - I definitely want to get something from her perspective. I wonder if Kincaid can portray this alternate culture perspective without descending into stereotypes... I do wish that Medusa had chosen something other than Siegfried and Brunhilde. Why did she pick a persona for Tom that was “the one man capable of beating her”? (255). Unless it was just so that she could thrill in beating him again, even in that situation? Or, could he only beat her because he was her true love and it had nothing to do with fighting? I wonder why Seigfried’s bio didn’t include his relationship or feeling for Brunhilde? Kincaid only mentions his strength. I look forward to learning more about Medusa but Kincaid’s writing so far has not impressed me. I find it simplistic and cliche-ridden. According to Goodreads, I’m in the minority here and I look forward to handing it to students to see what they think.
The Chilling: Reprogramming Tom’s brain so that he is a more docile, compliant candidate for Dominion Agra? Yes, I can absolutely see our world headed in this direction. That’s downright terrifying, I’ll be honest. Terrifying is right! Reading some facebook statuses and watching a few youtube videos makes me shudder to think how the next generation will lead. People constantly spit out what they’ve taken in with no change in that information. EEP!
Looking over my notes, I guess I didn’t have to worry about my nitpicking leading me to not enjoy the book as much as I might have. I’m definitely still enjoying it. Now I need to get it finished before my second renewal expires! No comment. I will let my section speak for itself. Chime in - what are your "must have" qualities for a read you enjoy?