Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Incarceron - Catherine Fisher

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Series: Incarceron #1
Genre: YA, dystopian, futuristic
Published on January 26, 2010
Published by Dial
Pages: 442
Read From: 3.8.12 - 3.10.12

Incarceron is a prison unlike any other: Its inmates live not only in cells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness. The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped. 
Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can't remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron. He's going to escape, even though most inmates don't believe that Outside even exists. And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia. 
Claudia claims to live Outside - her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she's doomed to an arranged marriage. If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return. 
But then don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.


Yes, this is a weird book. No, the weird factors are not explained; they just happen, and they are just there. And yet, it is still a good book. The characters are all excellent - especially the two female characters. Claudia is practical, straight to the point, unemotional - and not in a way that makes her seem heartless or a piece of cardboard. She doesn't start crying every other chapter, or falling into hysterics. And when she gets upset, she has a reason for it, and it doesn't last long.

Finn's past is very easy to figure out, partially because it is a "twist" that has been done a lot. But since this is not necessarily the Author's main twist, it doesn't make the entire story disappointing. The second - and bigger - twist in the story is harder to figure out, if only because it seems too strange to be the answer. But this is a book that the stranger your guess, the more likely it is the be the answer.

Because this is a strange story. One of the strangest I have read. And perhaps it would not be so strange if the Author took more time to explain things. Yes, unfortunately, this is an Author who seems to have no qualms in leaving her Readers in the dark about certain things, and not explaining others with complete clarity. So the Reader is left with making best guesses and moving on. This is a story that could have benefited from more description. And I'm not talking about scenery descriptions. The Author, I am thinking, wanted the story to feel enclosed, poorly lit, covered in axel grease, smelling like cigarette smoke, and looking like a garbage heap. And that is the exact impression I get of Incarceron: a massive dark space lit with flickering florescent bulbs, garbage and stripped wires everywhere. It's the lack of explanation about . . . well, for instance, the Beetles. I can guess what they are, but it's never really explained what they are, and they're mentioned all the time. Then there are the skull rings, which are never fully explained, and there are scattered references to Greek mythology - the Fates spinning and cutting the life-strings of mortals, the yearly tribute of young people to the Minotaur, just to name a few. It's like these things are there just for weirdness's sake. Once I realized that none of this weirdness would be explained, I got over it, but . . . not really. It still bugs me, and maybe that is partially the appeal of Incarceron.

Setting the lack of explanation aside for a moment, it's still a good book. And maybe some of this is explained further in Book Two. If it weren't for the characters and the very obvious anti-utopian message, maybe I would not like it as much as I do, but there is no denying that it's an intriguing read with interesting events and likable characters (okay, Finn is pretty useless, but everyone else is good). But satisfying is not the world I would use to describe this book, nor is disappointing, because it's not disappointing. As with all weird books I've read, I find myself unable to assign a proper descriptive word to it. So I will just say this: it's very weird, but it's intriguing enough to be worth reading.

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