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Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Incarceron" by Catherine Fisher (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Catherine Fisher's Official website here
Order Incarceron from Amazon here

Introduction: Incarceron was published in the UK in 2007. It has finally made it's way across the ocean to the US, with a release date of January 26, 2010.

Catherine Fisher is best known for her YA series The Oracle Prophecies, The Snow Walker, and The Book of Crow. Along with several stand alone novels such as Darkhenge.

Overview: Incarceron is a prison that is beyond any other prison ever dreamed of. It's a futuristic prison that is placed under ground, and is a host to many run down cities and areas of wilderness. The inmates within the prison have formed rival groups, and act almost savagely to stay alive.

Incarceron was sealed many years ago. No one enters, and no one leaves this prison. There is a legend that says that only one person has ever been able to escape Incarceron. This man, Sapphique, serves almost as a hero and savior of hope to the people living within Incarceron.

However Incarceron watches every move that is made throughout the prison. At times altering the course of events for fun, or just to see the results of what would happen to the people living within it's depths.

Finn, is a seventeen year old prisoner, that can only remember the past three years of his life. Finn has the wild belief that he wasn't born within Incarceron, like the other inmates, but instead has really come of the Outside. This belief has led him to wild dreams of escaping Incarceron and proving everyone that there really is an Outside and that he really did come from there.

On the Outside, is a young girl, Claudia. She is the daughter to the Warden of Incarceron and is stuck in an arranged marriage to the future king.

As fate would have it, Claudia and Finn separately find a crystal key that allows them to communicate with each other. Claudia agrees to help Finn escape from Incarceron. Although she find it hard to believe that anyone would want to leave Incarceron, the people Outside have been told that Incarceron is a paradise of sorts, so it's hard to believe that anyone would want to leave such a place.

Helping each other will take Finn and Claudia to new levels, and help form a unique long distance friendship that is forged by desperation. Now all that lies in wait is if Incarceron will allow one of it's own to escape.

Analysis: Incarceron has been highly talked about for the past couple of months. Usually when a novel has so much buzz about it, there's always that fear that it really won't live up to the expectations that are set for it. Luckily, my experience with Incarceron was exactly the opposite. From the moment I started reading this book, it sucked me in and it was almost impossible to put down.

Incarceron is a complex novel, its definitely not a novel that can easily be skimmed. It's not so complex that readers get confused or have no idea what is going on. Instead it requires thinking, and a bit of assuming on the readers part. Explanations of groups of people, the setting of Incarceron, and the whole time issue, appears confusing at first, and aren't directly told to the reader. However as time goes on throughout the novel it becomes clearer what is going on and what groups are. Each chapter has a small excerpt from a document, letter or story that slowly reveals to readers what is really going on.

It's a very rare book that can take on this approach to writing and not lose the reader. Instead Cathrine Fisher knows just when to drop clues and hints to the mystery of Incarceron that it captivates the reader and makes them want to know more. However, this approach isn't for everyone and could cause readers to stop reading for fear of not understanding the entire plot or getting easily confused as to what is really going on.

The plot of the story is a fairly intriguing concept. Incarceron is really for the most part one big mysterious area, that slows starts to form as the reader progresses through the story. New information is constantly being added and readers can never know what to expect to find in Incarceron. By the end a fully formed picture is painted and it really is very fascinating.

There are various plot threads that I came across while reading that for a seasoned reader were very predictable. I easily could see where Fisher was taking the story in regards to Finn and who he might really be. Also the mystery of Claudia's father was fairly predictable at about the halfway mark. However, the mystery of Incarceron and Fisher's writing style captivated me so much that I kept wanting to read on, and the predictability factor wasn't so blatant that it made the story dull.

As for the characters in this novel, there wasn't instant attraction at first. As the story went on the character of Finn started to grow on me, and I really started to enjoy reading his segments. The other characters weren't bad, and there's nothing wrong with them, but the main focus of the novel is really more about the prison of Incarceron, Finn and the legend of Sapphique then building up Claudia's characters.

My favorite part of the book and one that I really thought was fairly unique and thought out was the whole time issue. Incarceron takes place in a futuristic society that has computers, televisions, and machines. However in the previous years, the king went back and made a decree that forced everyone to live in 16th/17th century ideals. The dress, the language, the ban on the use of anything automated it all makes up standard Protocol that every citizen must abide by.

This was an interesting twist that after fully understanding what was happening with it really appeared very thought out. It's not really explored why this decree was ever given, and hopefully in the second novel it'll be explored a lot more.

Incarceron is for the most part a fully contained story but there are plenty of plots that continue on to the second novel. The second novel is scheduled to be released in the US in 2011, so the wait isn't too long.

In the end, I loved Incarceron a lot more then I thought I would. It's really a novel that wasn't just a regular run of the mill fantasy but instead had a lot of heart, soul and thought put into every twist and turn of the story. The fact that there was a lot of thinking and mystery helped make this an impossible novel to put down. I anxiously await the second novel to see what will happen. Cathrine Fisher far exceeded my expectations for this novel.


Robert said...

I've heard nothing but praise for this book, so I went ahead and ordered a copy. Can't wait to check it out!

Cindy said...

It was a fun book. I really think you'll like it. :)

A lot of people when it came out in the UK complained because there wasn't any talk of a sequel. Knowing there will be a sequel does help :)

Robert said...

Any idea when the sequel is supposed to come out here in the US?

Cindy said...

Penguin just has it a publication date of 2011. But I can look into that because now I'm curious :)

The sequel has been out in the UK since 2008.


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