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by S.J. Kincaid


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kincaid's debut novel, an ambitious, high-concept melange of the teen hacker and teen spy genres (with some gaming elements included, too), occasionally struggles under its own weight, but still provides a fast-paced and exciting tale. Fourteen-year-old Tom Raines skips his virtual school, choosing instead to play VR games online and hustle other gamers. When one game turns out to be an audition for a military program, he ends up working for the Pentagonal Spire, with a computer chip embedded in his head, and hopes that he can one day become one of the elite students who guide unmanned drones in the ongoing war against the Russo-Chinese Alliance. Kincaid tosses a lot into her book--romance, cyberpunk tropes, evil corporations, military academy subplots, a "Who's the traitor?" story line, and goofy humor (a subplot in which one student, Yuri, has been programmed to process classified information incorrectly is particularly over-the-top). It's too much, and leads to a too-long novel, but the strong action and spy sequences keep the core story entertaining. Ages 13-up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 7 Up-Tom Raines, 14, moves from casino to casino with his gambler father, generally paying for their lodgings from his winnings at virtual reality games. When he passes a surprise VR scenario, he is recruited by General Marsh to join the Intrasolar Forces. Teens from the IF are backed by multinationals to fight for the Indo-American Alliance by remotely piloting spacecraft in battles around the solar system. He jumps at the chance to do something with his life and is whisked off to the Pentagonal Spire. There he learns that he must have a computer implanted in his brain to be able to fulfill his responsibilities. He also learns that his mother's hated boyfriend, Dalton Prestwick, is an important and ruthless figure among the corporate sponsors. Meanwhile, a new Combatant, call sign "Medusa," has joined the Russo-Chinese Alliance and is reaping victory after victory. Tom finds himself strangely intrigued by Medusa and violates protocols to seek her out over the Internet. He eventually discovers that he has an ability above and beyond his comrades to interface directly with machines around the Earth and beyond. It is only with this ability and the help of his friends that Tom is able to escape Prestwick's reprogramming, find the mole in the Spire, and defeat Medusa. Kincaid combines a Harry Potter-like teen discovering that he has unknown abilities being sent to a special boarding school with the Ender's Game plotline of humanity's space battles being fought remotely by juveniles. She adds espionage and corporate skullduggery along with multiple mysterious enemies to create a blockbuster of a debut.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Tom Raines is the 14-year-old son of an itinerant gambler. Luckily for Tom, he's also an accomplished gamer in a futuristic world dominated by corporate leviathans that spearhead global wars on a scale designed to minimize human casualties while maximizing profits. When Tom gets recruited into an elite fighting academy at the renowned Pentagonal Spire, he's first shocked yet delighted to finally gain the validation he's sought all his young life. But reality quickly sets in when Tom realizes he must accept a computer implanted right into his brain; some of the fellow Intrasolar Forces trainees he looks up to may have nasty hidden agendas that don't bode well for him; and people really do still bleed. Although Tom himself is a flat character created solely to carry the story-driven plot, strong technology and believable developments thrust the action forward with compelling intensity. Readers who gobbled up Veronica Roth's Divergent (2011) and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985) will naturally gravitate toward this debut novel already acquired by 20th Century Fox.--Trevelyan, Julie Copyright 2010 Booklist



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