Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Imaginative, but predictable.  Exciting, but unsatisfying.  Praiseworthy, but saturated.  I am torn.

Incarceron is a prison of sorts, one that was created long ago with no way in and no way out.  The people of Incarceron aren't even completely sure if there is anything Outside of their world.  Since no one on the Outside has seen the inside of the prison, it is believed to be a Utopia.  Unfortunately, evil exists everywhere.  The Warden alone has the key, and no one other than him knows its secrets of this living, breathing, world.  When the Warden's daughter, Claudia, becomes too curious, secrets are revealed and the doorway between these two worlds becomes blurred.

Unlike anything I had ever read before, Fisher magically weaves together a false "protocol" of an era long ago with the technology of a futuristic age.  While the women have ladies-in-waiting tightening up their corsets, they have to be sure to check the mirror to see if they need to use the laser skinwand to rid themselves of any new wrinkles.   One would think this kind of dichotomy would be hard to get used to, but I had no trouble jumping head-first into this imaginative pool of sci-fi goodness. 

The world Outside Incarceron, Claudia's world, is one in which she is a modern girl being forced to live a lie in a mock-up of the 18th century.  As a modern girl, she can't help but be curious and daring, and unable to obey orders from anyone - not even the Queen.

The world Inside Incarceron is Finn's, an eighteen year old boy who was "born" inside Incarceron three years ago.  He has fragmented memories of being Outside, of cake and birthday parties, and a pretty girl.  Finn hopes that these pieces of a memory will help him figure out who he was before he woke up Inside.  He and his gang, including his oathbrother, Keiro, and the Master Gildas, fight their way through the inner politics and gangs of inmates to find a portal to the Outside.  There is only one who has done it before, Sapphique, and they follow in his footsteps, with little more than faith to guide them.


I had read so many rave reviews for Incarceron this past year, but it wasn't until I picked up an ARC of the second book of Catherine Fisher's trilogy at BEA that I reserved a copy of Incarceron from the library and got reading.  And, so far, I'm sure it sounds like I loved the what's with all the confusion, Alison?

I can't quite put my finger on why I am not gushing over Incarceron, but when I was about half-way through the book, one of my friends was walking through my kitchen and saw it on my counter.  When she asked, "Oh, how about this one?"  I impulsively answered, "Meh."  I actually surprised myself a little with that answer, but that's how I felt.

The biggest issue I had with the book was its predictability.  A futuristic world made up to look like the 18th century with a doorless prison was predictable?  Actually...yes.  After 100 pages, I knew who Finn was thought to be, I guessed where Incarceron was, and I had a good idea of how it was going to end.  Consequently, I got through the rest of the book just to see how Fisher was going to bring me there. 

While many of the action scenes were exciting, I couldn't help but feel extremely unsatisfied by the end.  Maybe it was my accurate predictions, but I knew by page 300 that this was not going to be a book that wraps itself up nicely only to bring us on another adventure with the next book. Instead, Incarceron is only one-third of a story, instead of one book in a trilogy. 

Breaking my own rules, I read too many reviews of Incarceron.  The expectations were high, and I wasn't going to be the one discovering a hidden gem.  Incarceron has not only been read and reviewed around the blogosphere recently, but after its original successful release in the UK three years ago, Americans have been asking for this book. 

All that being said, there were a lot of things I LOVED about it, not the least of which was its originality.

Incarceron is unlike anything I have ever read before - YA or otherwise. It isn't quite a dystopia, but it isn't too far from historical fiction either. It's Phillipa Gregory meets Star Trek. As much as I criticize certain aspects of the book, I can not overlook the fact that it is unique. In a sea full of copycats and knockoffs, Catherine Fisher stands on her own.  She has successfully created a world that was easy to accept, and leaves its readers wanting more. 

Will I read the sequel? 

I've already started reading Sapphique.  I couldn't help myself!  Catherine Fisher created this exciting, original, world, in which I could easily immerse myself.  Her characters are not always likable, but I found myself thinking about them after I finished the book.  Finally, there is the hint, the possibility, of a love story - even though I am probably thinking of the unpredictable, improbable match instead of the obvious one.

The Good:  Suspenseful, original, exciting

The Bad:  Predictable, unsatisfying, crowded

The Verdict:  If you like sci-fi, if you like adventures, and if you're looking for something new and different with an element of the magical, read Incarceron...then come back and tell me what you think!

Other Reviews:
Guys Lit Wire
Steph Su Reads

Book Extras:
Catherine Fisher's website
Penguin's Incarceron Page
Read an Excerpt

About the Book:
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Dial; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803733968
ISBN-13: 978-0803733961

About the Author:
Catherine Fisher is an acclaimed novelist and poet, and has written many fantasy books for young readers, including the popular Oracle Betrayed series


Amanda said...

Hm, I think I'll probably skip this one...

Melina said...

I like how you posted the good and the bad at the end of your review. It sums up the review nicely.

bermudaonion said...

There are times I need a predictable read, but most of the time I prefer to be surprised. I'll have to think about this one.

Girlinbetween said...

I think I'll also have to think about this one.
great review!

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