Saturday, November 3, 2012

Batty About Books - Insignia by SJ Kincaid - Pt2

Here we are for Part 2!
Batty About Books
by SJ Kincaid

(Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. 464p. $17.99. 9780062092991)

We're halfway through Insignia with more questions and some answers.  Maria, whose thoughts are in purple, talks more about the science connections, gender roles, and historical aspects over on Maria's Melange.  We also ponder what the author's role is in portraying parts of the teen life. 

Part 2 - pg 117 - 223

I wasn't enthralled with Part 1 of Insignia by SJ Kincaid because I thought the author focused too much on looks and humiliation.  I liked the idea of war being fought by human-controlled machines though, so looked forward to Part 2. I’m actually a little bit MORE disappointed! I know we are only 1/2 way through but I’m having a hard time seeing how this book will redeem itself. I don’t want to have big personality and idea changes - they need to be gradual for me believe in them.  But, enough about that, let’s get to my objections.
Maria: I was hoping we would have gotten more into the action in this chunk of the book. I wonder if I’d feel differently about the pacing if I had just kept reading... guess I’ll find out soon!

I feel as if I keep reading the same things over and over and over.  I understand Kincaid doesn't want us to forget important stuff but this is a little bit of overkill for me.  We read repeatedly that they are owned by the military.  We’d heard it from Neil and the social worker in part one and now we have Beamer mentioning it as well as Tom thinking it.  The Achilles - Medusa connection was mentioned 4 times in 60 pages (p. 125, 159, 184, 187) as well as the mentions during battle. And how many times will I hear about the food and water patents? I don’t feel as if I need to remember or pay attention because the author will just tell me again.
Maria: Yes, I felt like this second chunk gave us a lot of repetitions. I also commented on some of the “info dump” aspects of the tactics class. Again, I wonder if it would have bothered me if I’d just been reading right through instead of stopping to take notes?

The focus on looks troubles me. Heather using her looks to get what she wants. The continued discussion on Wyatt. Wyatt’s role in the King Arthur sim. Wyatt’s parent’s reactions. Tom’s memory of his mom. “She couldn't believe such an ugly creature came from her.” (170) Tom’s reaction to being told they were turning off the growth hormone.
Maria: This is one of those instances where I wish I had a teen perspective. I know the appearance thing bugged me a lot, too, but I also remember (vaguely) feeling this way as a teen. So at what point does a book need to veer from actual teen experience? We want kids to see themselves in the characters, but we also want them to learn better ways to feel and experience life. I don’t know where the balancing point is, and I’d be interested in exploring this idea more. Meg (in Wrinkle in Time) spent an awful lot of time bemoaning her hideous appearance. Is that the same? I was more disturbed by Tom groping himself in his Guinevere form. I asked myself, “is that would a teen boy would do?” Then I realized I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to know the answer to that question! Hahahah! Good points. Where is the balancing point? How much becomes harmful? Must it always be helpful? Why was it ok in Wrinkle in Time?

This was huge for me. I was already disturbed by Kincaid using Blackburn’s character to humiliate Tom for laughs but I was completely appalled in this part.  First, the description of Nigel’s facial tic (which could also go under looks), then Dalton’s reference to him (174), then the virus that was named after him and used to embarrass him and make everyone else laugh (213).  
Maria: Yes, I wasn’t pleased by that at all. I kept waiting for someone to stick up for him! Again, I wonder at what point we stop reflecting actual teen behavior (which, sadly, I think this is) and start showing alternate positive choices. Is an author responsible for reflecting reality or altering it? I wanted there to be negative consequences for this behavior, at the very least.

Then, the whole Beamer incident where we learn that needing help from the social worker is a cause of shame. (154, 213) And I won’t even mention Blackburn saying use your dislike of each other to create viruses. (199)
Maria: Yes! We cheer for girls when they get active roles, but we also need to see boys being allowed to express vulnerability without shaming.

Eliot’s complete change of heart! Based on what we have been told (repeatedly) about his character, I didn’t believe his actions in the Troy scene.
Maria: I agree. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop - for Elliot to reveal what he hoped to get out of allowing Tom to take on that battle. When it didn’t happen, it felt like Elliot wasn’t being portrayed consistently.

Self worth: normal = nothing = worthless (213) WHAT????

Despite the negative above - there were still some things I liked about this part!
The Duel: I LOVED this. I could totally picture them standing around sending codes with glee. The virus names were so funny.  
Maria: “Worst duel ever” (214) I completely cracked up when I read this. I loved how Wyatt is schooling them all. I’m cheering for Wyatt now - forget everyone else. I want a book about her. YES, she is my favorite and I hope to see her role get even bigger and better! Maybe she’ll feature in the sequels!

Obsidian and the role they will play in upcoming parts. The potential for “insider trading” is huge here. Also, this part somehow brings to mind the merger of Random House and Penguin as well as the one of  Disney and Lucasfilms. What does all this combining of resources do for the consumers?
Maria: Yes - this is another great link in to current topics. I bet we could teach all of current events, and many history lessons, by tying into science fiction texts.

The “lessons” about past reasons for war and how we ended up in World War III. Agreed - though I thought the scenes ended up too long. I started to get bored before the lesson was over.

I look forward to the next part to see how all of this plays out. Will I feel better next week? I can’t wait to find out.

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