"The explosive conclusion to the series reviewers have likened to Ender’s Game and “Hogwarts-in-Space”
This exhilarating, explosive, and heartrending conclusion to the Insignia trilogy brings Tom and his intelligent, passionate, and brave young friends stunning tests and dangerous confrontations and through to an impossible future they could never have predicted.
Tom Raines and his friends are eager to return to the Pentagonal Spire to continue training for the elite Intrasolar Forces, but they soon discover troubling changes: strict new regulations and the revelation that the Spire is under new military control. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those now in control are aligned with corporate sponsors and their ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications, Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies.
Then a mysterious figure, the other ghost in the machine, begins fighting against the corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can Tom endure in the battle to save himself? He must decide if he can still fight when the odds of success seem to be sliding from his grip."
I have to admit that it's only polite curiosity that brings me back to finishing this trilogy. After the crazy events in Vortex, I'm not quite happy with the series. Insignia will and always will be my favorite book. But... When I start reading Catalyst, I start liking this book too. It's much, much better than Vortex, and the stakes are so much higher than ever.
Tom Raines is annoying, but he is that kind of annoying that grows on a person. Catalyst shows one of the most interesting character development of Tom Raines, and it definitely doesn't hide how much Tom is affected by torture. (And I mean, extreme torture. Psychological torture that one doesn't walk unscathed away from.) He learns so much from his experience, and he reaches out to people. It's a big change from who he was in the beginning of Insignia, and I'm so glad he isn't that teenage boy from Vortex.
Blackburn has a few great moment, but there is a quote that comes to mind. I don't remember the exact quote, but he highlights one of Tom's most annoying yet also influential talents. He can create crazy disaster in even the most "benign" problems. Blackburn is amazing, and even though he is slightly similar to Professor Snape, he does come for our heroes in the very end. It's a very bittersweet ending for him, but I think Blackburn wouldn't have it any other way.
The plot is seriously unstoppable. It starts off with a mystery, several murders, a nasty problem, and strange occurrences. Though the action is mixed with light-hearted and tender moments between friends, I honestly can't but hope for more friendship moments. (But the lack of sweet moments most definitely serves a purpose.) Tom's character arc remains one of the strongest parts of the book, and he learns and learns and learns. He matures. Though he does has his James Bond-like moments. (63 kills in a stimulation. A freaking one-man army.)
The ending of Catalyst is great, and I can't think of any other way to end it. (After all, in this genre, there is always someone dying.) Catalyst, as the last installment in this series, is wonderful, and it proves to be a strong sequel to Vortex.
Overall, Catalyst ends the trilogy cleanly without any large complications. The adventure of Tom and his friends is left open for more stories. This book is definitely for those who would love a Sci-Fi version of Hogwarts.
Rating: Four out of Five