Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Incarceron" by Catherine Fisher

Summary: Incarceron is a prison; years ago, inmates were sealed inside in an experiment to create a paradise.  Since then, no one has entered and no one has escaped.

Finn is a young boy inside Incarceron.  Born of the prison and a member of a group of thieves, he knows nothing of his identity and little of the fits that sometimes come on, leaving him with visions.  But when a mysterious key appears that matches a mark on his arm, Finn believes he may have a clue to his identity.

Claudia lives on the Outside, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron.  The Outside is trapped in a mandated Protocol that forces everyone to live as if it were the 17th century, despite the significant scientific advancements, in an attempt to avert progress and danger.  Since she was young, Claudia has been engaged to the Queen's son, but when she finds a link to Finn and Incaceron, Claudia knows she must do everything she can to save him and avert the wedding.

Musings: Incarceron is a unique dystopian book with interesting world-building and engaging characters.  In the novel, Fisher has created two worlds--the prison Incarceron and the falsely antiquated Outside, each of which come fully to life.  Although some mysteries, such as Finn's identity, are revealed very early, others are spaced out and enough it revealed and withheld by the end to leave the reader anticipating a sequel.

Some of the intricacies of the worlds are interesting but not fully explored.  Incarceron is a sentient being of its own kind, and some intriguing details of its motivation are mentioned, but the prison doesn't really emerge as a full character.  The presence of the prison itself raises questions of the nature of evil.  Wonders one of the first prisoners of Incarceron:
...or is it that man contained within himself the seeds of evil?  That even if he is placed in a paradise perfectly formed for him he will poison it, slowly, with his own jealousies and desires? (312)
This and other philosophical themes, as well as the forced 17th century lifestyle, could have been more fully addressed, but there's plenty of excitement within the book to look beyond that.

Incarceron is a nice blend of science-fiction and fantasy with a full and complex story line.  Despite some omissions, it's a book that would be great to chat over with others.

***This book completes the "New in 2010" category of the TwentyTen Reading Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds worth a read. I haven't heard of it before.