Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Claudia lives in a future society that plays at living in the 17th century and where technology and anything “off-era” is forbidden. Her father is warden of an experimental prison closed off from the Outside called Incarceron. Trapped inside Incarceron is Finn, a teen sure he’s from the Outside and determined not only to prove it but to return there.

My reading during Dystopian February has been amazingly varied so far, proving that dystopian fiction comes in many different forms. I’ve read some that have skewed sci-fi, literary fiction, horror, even slightly “comic”. INCARCERON skews high fantasy (a genre I tend to avoid) thanks to a whole fantasy world existing within Incarceron.

Plot-wise, there is a lot going on here. We have Claudia on the Outside who is caught up in an assassination plot, preparing for her arranged wedding to the Queen's feckless son and discovering a device that lets her communicate with the Inside. Then we have Finn on the Inside who is on the run from his adopted clan and following the path of Sapphique, the only prisoner ever to leave the prison. He acquires a device that lets him communicate with the Outside (i.e Claudia).

It turns out that people on the Outside think that Incarceron is a perfect world, an experimental utopia if you will. Well, we all know what happens to engineered utopias don’t we? As one of the prisoners writes in his diary, “…is it that man contains 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? I fear it may be that we blame the Prison for our own corruption.” (p 320) When Claudia finds out how bad it really is Inside, she makes it her personal mission to free Finn. But is it really that much better on the Outside?

I really enjoyed the philosophical questions the novel raised, the twisty plot, the interesting characters, and the world building of the Outside world (17th century to the naked eye, but with hidden washing machines – cool!). I was a little less keen on Incarceron itself. I liked that it was “alive” and its' all-seeing eyes (and the implications of that), but some of the scenes Inside kind of bored me because they were too high fantasy and too bogged down in description.

INCARCERON was just released this month in hardcover in the US and is available in paperback in the UK. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

My Rating - 4 Zombie Chickens: An Excellent Example of the Dystopian Genre


PS. Come back on Wednesday when I will be reviewing the sequel SAPPHIQUE and will offer both books in an international giveway!

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

31 comments:

Lily Child said...

Ooooh....your review makes me want to pick this book up RIGHT NOW. It will definitely be the next one I read! :D

Jenny said...

I read a book once that was a lot like this, plotwise, but I can't remember the author - I read it in middle school so it can't be the same one. I think the family was living in the nineteenth century, they were pioneers, and everyone got smallpox or something. And then it turned out they were really in this enclosed village and the rest of the world was in modern times.

Book Crazy Jenn said...

Great review, I have this one - need to pick it up soon! It sounds awesome!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Cool, I jsut got a copy of this yesterday:-)

Nely said...

I actually almost bought this last week. Don't really know why I put it back down. Now I'm really going to have to get it. Great review.

♥Nely

PJ Hoover said...

This was a nice, refreshing read. Kind of reminded me of an adult fantasy novel than a YA. I think it was the serious lack of romance?
But I'd recommend it.

Lenore said...

Jenny - I think you mean Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix? This one is not really like that. Here everyone knows they are playing.

PJ - I expected there to be romance too, especially with the set-up with Giles.

Charley said...

I don't know that I'll read this one, but I like the cover.

Misty said...

The more I read about this book, the better it sounds. Definitely on the list. Great review!

sharonlovescats said...

Awesome review Lenore. I tried reading this a while ago but couldn't get into it at the time. I plan on picking up again soon though. I have a feeling I just wasn't in the mood for this type of book the firs time around.

I love the idea of 17th century stuff mixed in with future technology. That on its' own sounds cool.

Tia said...

I just picked up this book from the library yesterday; it sounds interesting, but I'm also not a big fan of "high fantasy," so we'll see.

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... said...

Great review, I started reading this one but was distracted with something else so I put it away for now, but I hope to get back to it soon!

Ladybug said...

I really enjoyed reading your review, Lenore. I think this is a book I would enjoy reading so I've added to my Goodreads wishlist :)

April said...

I've seen this around and your review really makes me want to read it even more!! Great job!

Michelle said...

Oh I am so excited to read this book. If only for the cover alone. Now I'm a little nervous though - hopefully it will be a good 'un.

Staci said...

I'm keeping this one on my radar screen. Loved your review of it!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not a big fan of fantasy, but I'd have to read that to make sure Finn got out and I'd think of your Finn the whole time!

beth said...

This book just KEEPS popping up...I'm going to have to get it soon!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I would consider myself to be on the novice end of the spectrum when it comes to fantasy and dystopian, but I've liked what I've read so far. I like things that tease my little brain, and I think this book is up for the job based on your excellent review!

KHCPL Teen Scene said...

I just started reading this one a couple days ago, and loathe to put it down. It pulled me in from the very beginning, but when my husband asked me to describe it I found I lacked the words--there is just so much going on. If I had my way I would sit down and read this one through to the end...unfortunately I have other obligations, but it is something for me to look forward to finishing. Thanks for the review!

Dar said...

I could be in trouble with you reviewing all these Dystopian books. I'd been wondering about this one. It sounds good!

A Life Bound By Books said...

I've been looking forward to reading this book for awhile now. I was lucky that it just arrived in the mail the other day!

Thanks so much for the review, it was great. Just makes me want to read it even more now. :o)

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I like the fact that it is both dystopian and fantasy and think that the synopsis you outlined would fit really well with my tastes. This one goes straight to the top of the wish list. Thanks for the great review, I appreciate the recommendation!

Melody said...

Great review, Lenore! I'll have to check this out!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! I just received this one yesterday and your review makes me want to read it now!

Heather Zundel said...

I keep seeing this book. I think it is telling me something... :) Thanks for the review, Lenore.

Krista/Tower of Books said...

I like dystopian novels, so I definitely want to check this novel out. :)

Cleverly Inked said...

Wonderful review, I have heard mixed reviews.

Amy said...

It's a great cover! The books looks interesting too.

Beth F said...

I've been dying to read this since high fantasy is something I love. After reading your review I really, really want to read it. Just as soon as I can buy books again....

Michelle said...

I didn't read the full review but scrolled to see the zombie chicken rating. I've got this in my pile to read and I like to hear that it is an excellent example of dystopian fiction! Woo Hoo!