Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid
Insignia series. Hot Key Books, 2014. ISBN 9781471400711
(Age: 10 +) Recommended. Catalyst is the thrilling conclusion to the Insignia series which has seen 16 year old, Tom Raines, reeling from the events of his year training to join the Intrasolar Forces. He is now in the Pentagonal Spire determined to keep out of trouble, but devotees of this series would well predict that this is all but impossible for the headstrong Tom. Like his colleagues and friends he has been fitted with a neural processor which has enabled him to download a world of information and his fingers, frozen off from his experiences in the Antarctic, have been replaced. In his absence the world of Pentagonal Spire has greatly changed. Marsh has been replaced by a more militaristic General Mezilo who has set up a regime against which Tom would naturally react. But the real changes are going to prove much more drastic as Tom discovers Vengerov's plan to control the world by use of insidious nanomachines implanted in everyone's brain. How to stop this maniac becomes the prime focus of the story until it reaches its exciting, fast moving climax.
Catalyst is not just a world of technology: simulations, avatars, exosints, census devices and 'Austere Grade processors' it is also a world of friendship, loyalty, romance and love. Kincaid creates her characters with as much authenticity as she does her cyber technology. Tom's friends are each unique in their personalities and their relationships with each other could be played out in any school campus. The book is not without humour when Tom's choice of The Holocaust Museum followed by a hamburger for his first date proves less than successful.
While this novel abounds with action and seemingly impossible acts of bravery and stress on the human body it is not without its humanitarian side. Tom questions whether 'we should all just kill each other all the time' p 123. Throughout the tumultuous times friends remain loyal and the reader is treated to numerous examples of the power of friendship and love. In the end Tom also discovers that revenge is not as sweet and clearly defined as he would have first imagined.
Catalyst has something for everyone.