Thursday, September 2, 2010
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ... (courtesy of Goodreads)
Incarceron combines three literary genres: dystopia, science fiction, and pure fantasy (as opposed to fantasy elements in a realistic setting). These are three of my least favorite genres, so I was surprised to really enjoy Incarceron.
Fisher creates two rich worlds in Incarceron. We have the prison itself, Finn's World, which has a variety of classes, societies, and cities. It even has its own religion. Then we have Outside, Claudia's world. Outside is a contrast between old and new. On the surface, it looks like England in the 16th century. But the subtle uses of advanced technology sets Outside in some future era. Since Claudia is the daughter of the Warden, her world is filled with politics.
The book switches back and forth between Claudia and Finn's points of view. The switches were often very quick - only page or two for each person's story. Some people might find the rapid switches between viewpoints a bit jarring. But since I get frustrated with pure fantasy quickly, the changes were enough to hold my attention. We're slowly introduced into the fantasy worlds. Nothing ever feels bogged down.
I noticed that one of the tag suggestions on Amazon was "romance." In contrast, I saw very little romance in this book. There are hints of it for sure...but definitely not between Claudia and her betrothed. People use allegations of romantic relationships between Claudia and others as justification for their actions, but it's never an actual plot-point in the book. It's nice to have a book where the focus is just on the characters and the story without the ubiquitous love plot thrown in to fit the YA genre.
I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Sapphique. Fisher's worlds are so complicated that Incarceron only touches the surface of the people, politics, setting, technology, culture, religion, etc. It's my main criticism of the book - it's so complex that there isn't enough time to really "get it." Hopefully, it will be better fleshed out in the future books.
Rating: 4 / 5