Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

While reading Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, it’s hard to imagine living in a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but cells within endless halls and caverns, nestled among cities, separated by dangerous metal forests and wilderness, under soaring but enclosed skies. Even scarier, this failed high-tech experiment in rehabilitation, whose name is the book’s title, is now self-aware and always watching. It makes sure everyone, including seventeen-year old gang member Finn, understands that they have been born here, and, with its tunnels and caverns that shift and turn at random, there is no way in and no way out.

But Finn’s flashes of memories and a tattoo on his arm convince him that he came from the world outside. When, during a raid, he comes across a crystal key that allows him to open doors to parts of the prison unseen, he’s even further convinced there’s a way out.

In a parallel story, Claudia, the daughter of the wealthy Warden of Incarceron, is in her own prison in the outside world: decreed to live under conditions of the Victorian era, despite advanced technology; and groomed from birth to wed the Queen’s son and become her formidable opponent. When Claudia discovers the other crystal key after breaking into her father’s study, she communicates with Finn and becomes convinced he was a boy she once knew a long time ago, the real heir to the throne who was presumed dead. It’s then a race against time as Claudia and Finn struggle to gain his and his companions’ freedom, before Incarceron can stop them, and before the Warden comes to march Claudia down the aisle.

Despite the 450 pages, as a big fan of dystopian fiction, I found this book hard to put down. Finn’s instant likability and sympathy did make me wonder how he could hold his own in a ruthless gang like the Scum. While Claudia does seem spoiled, I sympathized with her anger at living a life not of her choosing. The discovery of what Incarceron really was shocked me, and the ending left me begging for a sequel, which there is: “Sapphique” comes out late-December of 2010.

-Reviewed by Debra B. at CCL