Sunrise was at 6:07, sunset will be at 8:10
We sat on the patio last night before a little fire in the brazier watching the coals burn. Beer, chili, stars in a clear sky, stories about being thousands of miles from land in the Indian Ocean on a darkened aircraft carrier, a ship as big as a neighborhood, centered under stars so thick you could read under them. Our neighbors, separated from us by a holly hedge, were digging in their yard well into true dark and their ducks made quiet duck noises as they settled down for the night. The fountain burbled and splashed and every so often a jet from SeaTac would curl away over our rooftop. There were white lights in the trees and voices on the street below us. A perfect pre-summer evening.
It probably isn't a secret as to why I then dreamed of meteors and meteor showers, constellations out of order, a sky filled with action, machines, and swirling stars.
I dreamed we were outside our house on the hillside above the street below where the neighbors were playing catch and waiting for something to happen. All the people in our circle of blocks were outside in the pre-dawn dark talking to each other, walking to meet each other, and there was a parade of costumed people carrying signs on the street two streets down the hill from us. We could hear the sound and rhythm of their words but not what they were saying.
Everyone was outlined in milky starlight, the color of moonlight during a freeze, all waiting for a meteor shower to arrive. While we waited, I watched the sky, filled with enormous numbers of things, I don't know what all: a set of five jets scrambling out of the sound and heading west, specks of light blinking out after traveling across the sky, light trails going the wrong way, a tiny little UFO that looked like a wobbling toy attached to a string and a stick. And a millennium of stars. Such a beautifully eerie sky, the air oddly warm for so early in the morning, all those people, waiting.
I searched my house for a recent book to connect to the whole idea of space and stars and not-empty skies and found Insignia by S. J. Kincaid.
I am a huge fan of science and speculative fiction and I will always choose it over anything else if there is a choice. I love science, I love astronomy, I love battles for the betterment of people (whatever forms those people may take). I like seeing the direction the world, or the galaxy, will be going as we make the decisions we do. And when the story's good, the characters are so well-drawn you can forget that they are "characters", and the science is clear and understandable, the experience can be time-stopping - the kind of thing that leaves you hungry, in the dark, and wondering what just happened.
I have to admit that when I started Insignia, I was more than a little peeved. The main character, Tom Raines, is one of the world's (our world's) best gamers and he's been recruited to the country's elite military academy, Pentagonal Spire, where he will be trained in virtual battle as part of the Intrasolar Forces to save the world from an alien attack. I was very much reminded of Ender's Game, one of my very favorite books of all time. I picked it up, put it down, picked it up, complained to my family, picked it up again...It had such promise! It was so much fun to read! I loved the characters! It was funny! But it was so familiar. I am pleased to tell you that after the initial bits, it heads in a different direction and then takes off all on its own trajectory.
Insignia is a rock 'em, sock 'em adventure featuring a host of very smart, very fast, very wired people connected in a virtual world to learn how to fight an enemy they don't know. World War III is here and we're losing. The military needs kids to fight for them as their reflexes are faster and their neurons fire faster.
As Tom digs himself out of his past (his dad is a dead beat gambler) and begins to find himself in the future he's always wanted (one with friends!), he begins to realize just how much he and his new friends have to lose.
Insignia is really funny, exciting, sly, filled with great action scenes and I can't wait for the next one. Teens, male and female, adults who like action or science fiction, there's something to appeal to almost everyone. There's a little romance, but nothing that will keep someone not interested in that stuff from continuing on. Ages 12 and up. (Katherine Tegen Books. $17.99. Available July, 2012.)
(No remuneration was received for any books mentioned in this blog.)