An unlikely teen is selected to attend Hogwarts-at-the-Pentagon.
Tom has spent most of his life casino-hopping with his ne'er-do-well father. His only real pleasure is virtual-reality gaming, and his mad skillz bring him to the attention of the U.S. Intrasolar Forces. In short order he is off to the Pentagonal Spire to train to become a Camelot Company Combatant: one of the elite teen "warriors" who pilot the remote spacecraft that wage World War III bloodlessly in space. The Indo-Americans and the Russo-Chinese are propped up by multinationals that fund the enterprise; the neural processors implanted in the kids’ brains—not to mention war itself—aren't cheap. Tom quickly makes friends (warm and funny boy, Asperger's-like girl, goofy boy) and enemies (vicious boy, borderline-crazy professor). He also comes to the attention of his mother's horrible boyfriend, an executive in a multinational that wants a pawn on the inside of CamCo. In addition to obvious echoes of Ender's Game and Harry Potter, debut novelist Kincaid weaves in hefty helpings of Cory Doctorow–like philosophy: "What, you think the American sheeple are going to question the corporatocracy?" Tom's father says memorably. With action, real humor and a likable, complex protagonist, this fast-moving, satisfying adventure also provides some food for thought.
Derivative and sometimes a little silly, but good fun nevertheless. (Science fiction. 13-16)