Author: Catherine Fisher
Page Count: 464 pages
Genre: dystopian, sci-fi, young adult
50 words or less: Out of sight, out of mind- Incarceron is where the undesirable elements of society have been sent, and Incarceron is their keeper. Those Outside are only just finding out that instead of a paradise, Incarceron is a hell from which their is allegedly no escape. Or is there?
I am such a sucker for good, vivid, thought-provoking dystopian novels. What with my addiction to worldbuilding and my thrill in people sticking it to the man, dystopian novels really hit the spot for me, and Incarceron can join the ranks as one of my favorites.
Incarceron is simultaneously three different stories going on at the same time. To begin with, it's the story of Finn, a prisoner of Incarceron, and his desire and drive to get Outside, along with his oathbrother, a young slave, and an old man who's been his informal protector since he awoke in a cell in Incarceron. It's also the story of Claudia, the Warden's daughter, her desire to escape from an arranged marriage that will make her Queen, and her desire to reconcile her past with her present to develop some sort of a future. Finally, it's the story of the history of this realm, the almost absurd need for conformity, and plots that are afoot to overthrow the existing order and try to insert another one. These three stories bob and weave until it becomes apparent that you can't have one without the other.
The whole story of Incarceron, the living, breathing prison, is set against the backdrop of a society ravaged by war and information/technology overload. As a remedy to that, the forces that be required that everyone retreat to an Era that was supposedly simpler; the 17th century seems to be the one that the powers picked, seemingly at random. With that comes a strict adherence to Protocol, which states that everything must be from the Era- clothes, technology, education, class structure. Everything. It throws the totalitarian need for conformity that is central to a dystopian novel into an almost absurd spotlight. This particular totalitarian state succeeded not only in getting everyone to conform, it got them to conform to the requirements of a society from hundreds of years in the past!
The author uses the worldbuilding in this novel in a really unique way. She opens up rifts in the worldbuilding on purpose, to show that not everyone is content with the way the society is run, and that the government's control and implementation of Protocol is not absolute. I found myself reading along, enjoying the ride, then having my attention jerked towards some seemingly insignificant detail. A small act of rebellion. A quick mention of out-of-Era technology. An opinion or mindset that seemed out of place. Normally breaks in the worldbuilding like that drive me batty, but here they were used to make a point about the story, and quite masterfully at that.
There are plenty of questions left unanswered at the end of Incarceron, but they only served to pique my interest in reading the next book in the series, Sapphique. If I had to make a comparison, this book reminded me tremendously of the old show, The Prisoner, both for its puzzles and mysteries as well as for that eerie, creepy feeling I always got when watching it.
Overall Grade: A-
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