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