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Magic or Madness
Justine Larbalestier
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Josef Škvorecký, Paul Wilson
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James Dashner
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Marie Lu
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Hugh Howey
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Patrick Ness
Insignia - S.J. Kincaid Note: I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum. I only reveal the ending (just a brief point about something that is not really important for the plot...yet), so I still feel pretty evil about it. :D

Keywords: School, tactics, military, teen, young adult, cyber-tactics, corporations, power, corruption, government, economic collapse, globalization, alliances, war, technology, stocks, investments, future, enterprises, friendship, education, video games, gaming, neural processor, brain invasion, viruses, hacking.

Rating:

Sentence: I sentence S. J. Kincaid to an across-the-US-road-trip (or across the UK would be ten times better) where all we listen to is the Harry Potter audio books, as read by the brilliant Stephen Fry. It's only torture if you let it be. We can even stop for bathroom breaks and food, but I'll be blasting the speakers, I swear it on my first edition UK copy of Howl's Moving Castle.



Review: If I could love this book more I would [Note: I initially gave this book four plums before I had read the ending]. There was just something so fantastic about the entire premise, plot and even info-dumping. Those who read and loved Dan Wells' Partials will recognize this form of info-dumping and explanation as a valuable introduction to what appears to be a totally new world (but not quite). Kincaid gives it to us easy in the form of education through the classroom.

At first the thought about having to read about how these countries (corporations) formed alliances and the entire globalization process made me want to sleep. But once I started reading about this fictional future of our world I just couldn't seem to get enough of it.

This entire dystopian-esque setting revolves around one of my favourite and most feared possibilities in the future of this planet, after zombies and the earth being destroyed by some space-shit of course: corporations taking over the government completely. We are an economy-driven world and power now lies in the politics of the economy.

I do not want to reveal much about the book, except that the little blurb on the jacket does not do it justice at all. In fact, I put off reading it because it didn't sound like something I'd want to read. I am so glad I decided to pick it up anyway. This is a soft version of science fiction, for sure, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it lacks the intense cheesiness of much of SFF. This leaves room to appreciate Kincaid's actual humour and some of her more serious topics and themes in the book.

So, if you're like me and all you got from the jacket blurb was BAD FATHER and GAMBLING, I am here to tell you ignore all that crap. Instead take this away from the book: CHIPS IN YOUR BRAINS, VIRUSES MAKING PEOPLE ACT LIKE DOGS, GAMING IN MYTHOLOGY, and JACKASS COVERED IN SEWAGE. And if you began this book thinking it was like The Hunger Games due to representation of certain companies/countries through these teens, you are sorely mistaken (and I am glad for it).

I'll be honest though, I couldn't give Kincaid a full five stars out of hesitation (at first). The feel of the book was like a really elaborate fan-fiction sometimes, because of the eerie similarities I could draw to some Harry Potter characters (and situations). But that is my own feeling about it and I may just be in an HP frame of mind right now.

If Kincaid did borrow some things from pop culture today (who doesn't?), she sure is goddamn classy about it. My only concerns with the borrowing, really, were some of the character developments and personalities (I love HP characters, even evil, so I am biased to begin with). Beamer resembles Ron Weasley (and sometimes Marvin the Paranoid Android) a little, especially being a ginger and having a younger sister that reminded me of Ginny from the first book. Tom and his sadly unstable home life resembles Harry Potter and his non-home-home situation, including that feeling of sympathy when it's the day that parents come to visit their kids and all he's [Tom] got is an asshole company man representing his absent mother. Blackburn is like a weird hybrid of Moody and Snape (keen on torturing Potter Tom, but in a way that'll help him defend himself against the unforgiveable curses and legilimency neural viruses). Elliot is a dead ringer for Gilderoy Lockhart, in my opinion, except somehow Elliot comes off more legitimate if that's possible. And also likeable.

It left me with a bit of a hollow feeling at first, because I didn't see any parallels to the Weasley twins or Dumbledore (my favourites). Kincaid, WHERE IS DUMBLEDORE?! It certainly is not Marsh. I refuse to believe it! Okay, so I should probably just feed my need for HP through fan-fiction, but alternate universe versions of it. Like HP Arthurian Legend or HP Nancy Drew

or HP Steve Jobs' biography. Why am I so off topic?

I really loved this book because I couldn't always see where it was going. Much of the characters' actions were a surprise for me and I appreciated it. In fact, when Tom was asking about seeing what Medusa looked like physically, I felt a heavy burden that comes with disappointment. This had happened before, after all, in books like Ready Player One, where the main love interest turns out to be normal looking or absolutely gorgeous (although Cline countered that with his unexpected best friend IRL being a robust black chick in an RV--AMAZING). As soon as Tom said something about girls being prettier IRL when they say they aren't, I was in agreement with him, thinking "this is so typical". And then Kincaid hits you with the big one.

Medusa is not pretty at all. Well, she might be pretty under all the burns or whatever is going on, on her face, but Tom still really likes her even though his expectations have been shattered. And that is the main reason I changed my mind about this book. I will give it 4.5 for giving the middle finger to conventional expectations of what the main love interest should look like. This is something, I hope, cannot be fixed.
It's not that I want her to suffer from the judgment of society and perhaps Tom (we shall have to see in the next book); I want her to rise above that. And Tom too.

But seriously, where is Dumbledore?