A kid had the ability to sense technology and was living with his deadbeat gambling dad. Ends up forced into the military as a plebe, to fight with ships controlled remotely from the futuristic Pentagon.

They have to get sponsorship from different companies or such in order to rank up and they all fight other countries at the summit, if I remember right, every year or so.

The main character can deeper than others can into his chip or something and gets caught doing it by an a**holish military officer, but they work together.

  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year (or range of years) did you read this, and when do you think it might've been published? Also, do you recall any details about the cover? Jun 3, 2022 at 8:28
  • 2
    "The main character can deeper than others can" a word or two missing there. Want to edit to make a bit more sense of that?
    – FreeMan
    Jun 3, 2022 at 14:09
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    @user152592 - If anyone correctly identifies this, you can mark that answer as accepted by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons, as per the tour. Jun 5, 2022 at 4:28

1 Answer 1


The Insignia series by S.J. Kincaid...?

According to the Goodreads synopsis for the first book, there's a Third World War being fought to control the assets of the solar system, and the salvation may be Tom Raines, a 14-year-old with phenomenal gaming skills. 'Battle drones' are also mentioned.

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender's Game.

The planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay. . . .

This review of the first book notes that Tom has spent his life on the road, moving from casino to casino with his father. He's subsequently invited to join a military school, and has a chip inserted into his brain, so he can take part in a war being fought in space by remote-control. Presumably, it's the aforementioned 'battle drones' which are fighting in space, and being controlled by people on Earth.

Tom is awkward, wary and self-reliant. He has spent his life on the road, moving from casino to casino with his dad and catching a little online education whenever the opportunity presents itself, but frankly he is far more concerned with finding his next meal than any more distant future. A poor diet and a life spent in gaming rooms has left him scrawny, small, and with a serious case of acne. He feels he is nothing and no one, and cannot imagine ever living any other life.

And then suddenly his skill as a gamer and a certain ruthless streak he developed to survive mean he is invited to join a military school and to train as one of the young warriors who are fighting World War Three. This is not a conventional war with death and bloodshed as its main features, but a series of battles conducted in space by remote control. Gifted adolescents have a chip is inserted into their brains which allows them to control computers for this task. The upside of all this is that Tom has at last a purpose in life and a home, and can even do things like download his homework directly into his memory. It is only gradually that he comes to realise the downside: the chip can never be removed, and he is the property of the military for the rest of his life. It is a dramatic situation and it is hardly surprising that film companies have expressed interest in the book.

This Goodreads user review of the first book specifies that Tom's father is a gambler, and that he's recruited by the government to join the 'Pentagonal Spire.'

Tom lives in a futuristic world, not too far ahead from our very own, where World War III is fought solely in space without losing any lives. Yet, for Tom, war is the last thing on his mind as he struggles to make ends meet with his gambling father who constantly keeps moving him. However, when Tom's gaming prowess, which keeps him clothed, is discovered by the government, they recruit him to join the Pentagonal Spire where he is implanted with a neural chip that instantly makes him smarter than the average human being. At the Spire, Tom essentially trains to become a combatant soldier; yet, as he will soon learn, it isn't the game of battle he needs to learn quickest, it's the game of corporate politics, friendship, and corruption.

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