Incarceron: A Review

Incarceron is a prison like no other.Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

It is a closed system; nothing enters the prison. And nothing ever leaves. Incarceron was built to be self-sufficient. Nothing goes to waste. Food is recycled, materials made over and over. Prisoners, when they pass, are not buried or burned–their atoms are used to create new inmates.

In a prison so vast, most prisoners cannot imagine a world Outside their misery.

Finn is different.

Seventeen or eighteen years old, Finn has no memory of his past. No one believes his claims that he came from Outside. Fragmented recollections haunt him with tantalizing details of stars and other delights never seen inside the prison. Some think they are visions sent to guide Finn to Escape. Finn hopes they are memories of the life he once had–a life he can return to Outside.

But Incarceron is not the only way to imprison a person. Claudia lives a life of privilege Outside trapped under the watchful gaze of her father, the Warden of Incarceron. Her arranged marriage is fast approaching, threatening to drag her into a life of intrigue and games she does not want.

Claudia thinks if she can find the prison’s secret location she might be able to unlock the secrets of her own past and find the key to her freedom. Perhaps her search will be the key to Finn’s Escape as well in Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2010)*.

Find it on Bookshop.

To call this book action-packed would be a gross understatement. I’m not going to lie, Incarceron started so fast that I actually had to read the first chapter twice to make sense of it. After the crazy dramatic beginning, Fisher lets readers take a bit of a breath and the story starts to move along in a more easy-to-process manner.

Fisher tells the story from two very distinct viewpoints. Each character has their own voice, their own unique take on the world. On top of that Fisher manages to use pacing to further differentiate between the worlds inside and outside the walls of Incarceron. Life in the prison is, unsurprisingly, no picnic. The writing captures that perfectly from the frenetic chaos among the inmates vying for position to the filth and despair that permeates all parts of the prison**. Outside, Fisher evokes a lighter, fresher world if not a gentler one. The brutality of Finn’s life in Incarceron contrasts well with the subtle intrigue and treachery found in the rarefied world Claudia inhabits at Court.

To complete the picture each chapter opens with a fragment of writing from Court, of the history inside Incarceron, or from other relevant sources to tease out details of the prison (and the characters’) past in this story that’s part futuristic-steampunk-fantasy, part prison break, part palace intrigue, all awesome.

Incarceron is an exciting, brutal read that will keep you at the edge of your seat from the (slightly confusing) beginning to the nail-biter ending. Everything about this book was well-done and satisfying except for one thing: It’s the first of two books. While the story ties up a lot of loose ends, the full story won’t be revealed until Sapphique‘s December 2010 publication.

*Incarceron was originally published in 2007 in the UK where it received tons of accolades before being published here three years later.

**The prison itself reminded me a lot of the Neverland created in Hook–the 1991 “sequel” to Peter Pan with Robin Williams–particularly the hideout of the Lost Boys where they spend all their time being slobs and running about like lunatics.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, 1984 by George Orwell, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Lotus and  Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne, Hook (movie with Robin Williams)