Bitsy's Reviews > Incarceron

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
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's review
Dec 01, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, science-fiction, young-adult, dystopian
Read from December 01 to 07, 2010

This book absolutely blew me away. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into yet another YA dystopian novel, especially one about prisons, but this wasn’t it. I was impressed by the depth and drive of the book and am glad this one joined the ranks.

Incarceron contains the story of a boy named Finn trapped in a prison where an entire colony of people have been kept for generations. Unlike the others though he has no memories of his youth there, instead he has flashes of a world completely unlike the prison, a world Outside that some in the prison don’t even believe exists. Meanwhile the warden of Incarceron lives in the outside world where people have deliberately chosen to live in a medieval time era, in the dark ages. His daughter Claudia feels trapped, by her skirts and her time, by her arranged marriage to the prince, by her father most of all who she both fears and loves. When Finn and Claudia both find a key that allows them to communicate they both immediately want to be free of their respective prisons, but doing so unearths more truths in their worlds of lies than either could have anticipated.

This book reminds me a lot of the Otherland series by Tad Williams. This is like Otherland for teens, complete with very grown up and complex themes that are still not finished developing at the close of Incarceron, the first in a trilogy. The concepts of freedom and retribution, of punishment and justice are all very well done. This is definitely a thinking book in a lot of ways but also keeps that adventure spirit as you run around wandering what is going on.

I love that all of my preconceived notions of what a prison should be were blown out of the water by this book. I think it also addresses some issues with our own prison system. In this novel the prison is so large that there are vast forests and cities within it. Travel is dangerous and the prison itself has whims that can lead to the death of prisoners caught unawares in dark corners or wrong corridors. The social atmosphere was also very dark and frightening as people banded together to form gangs, cities, and in all cases ruled by fear and greed and not reason.

The outside world was also fascinating as they were trapped in their own way, though I thought it was a bit obvious that they would chose the dark ages to trap the people in. These people are bound by Protocol and are forced into old class systems and old sexist standards of dress and partially belief. The only women of power were those of the upper class. I loved the concept of a world where people clandestinely use technology while on the surface appearing to follow Protocol to the letter. It very much matches with the true politics of the time they emulate I think, if people in the dark ages had access to such. Curtsy and smile in the light while doing deals in corners in the dark.

My favorite parts would have to be the constant allusion to the concept of Eden. With the Sapienti as the serpents of truth and the people trying to will themselves into ignorance both Inside and Outside of Incarceron. There is also much discussion of whether or not mankind can even live in such a place anymore, or if we are too corrupt and now require our knowledge in order to survive.

In the end fans of Tad Williams that want to read a book that is not 1000 pages long will enjoy, as long as they realize this is YA. Teens who love dystopian and steampunk will probably dig this book as well. Anyone that does like this and wants to graduate to a much larger series I really recommend the Otherland tetralogy, starting with Otherland: City of Golden Shadow.

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Quotes Bitsy Liked

Catherine Fisher
“I remember a story of a girl in Paradise who ate an apple once. Some wise Sapient gave it to her. Because of it she saw things differently. What had seemed gold coins were dead leaves. Rich clothes were rags of cobweb. And she saw there was a wall around the world, with a locked gate.”
Catherine Fisher, Incarceron

Reading Progress

12/01/2010 page 28
12/03/2010 page 132
29.0% "This book reminds me a lot of the Otherland series by Tad Williams, and that is a very good thing!"
12/06/2010 page 281
61.0% "I cannot do much with these status updates because, first off, there is nothing to say besides gibberish because I have been completely blown away. There are just no words. Secondly, the less you know going into this book, the better. Trust me. It's amazing."
12/07/2010 page 392
86.0% "Now I see what people meant by the characters suddenly becoming OOC at the end. Not sure I agree with that assessment though."
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