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Catherine Fisher – Incarceron

July 6, 2011

84. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2007)
Incarceron, Book 1

Read By: Kim Mai Guest
Length: 11h 36m (448 pages)

Genre: YA Dystopian Sci-Fi

Started: 14 June 2011
Finished: 24 June 2011

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? It got a lot of buzz as one of the better new YA dystopian sci-fi novels to read… so I did.

Escape from prison
is hard when you don’t believe
in a world outside.

Summary: Incarceron is a huge, sentient prison, a closed system that wastes nothing, and is completely cut off from the world outside – so cut off that after generations, its inhabitants no longer believe that Outside really exists. Finn is one of those inhabitants, born in one of the cells of Incarceron, but he has strange spells that come complete with visions of a world he’s never known inside the prison. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, which in the outside world is known only as a great inviolate experiment. Claudia should have everything she could possibly want: She’s grown up in pampered luxury, and now her father has betrothed her to marry the Queen’s son, but Claudia begins to suspect that there is something more sinister going on, and that it has something to do with the prison her father won’t talk about…

Review: Meh. Incarceron is failing to inspire me to much more eloquence than that. I didn’t dislike it enough to stop listening, but I didn’t like it enough to want to read the sequel, either. I found the beginning hard to get into – Fisher throws you into the middle of the story pretty abruptly – but once I’d got my footing, I figured out what was ultimately going on pretty quickly. The story was imaginative and original, I’ll give it that, but it was also weirdly episodic; Finn’s storyline in particular didn’t always flow smoothly, and sometimes it seemed like he was having adventure after adventure to no real end. I didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters, and the bits and hints of stories that I found the most interesting weren’t developed satisfactorily, or were brought up and then ignored. The characters weren’t done any favors by the narration, either; Kim Mai Guest narrated parts of Cloud Atlas and Dreamsongs, and I had no problems with her reading in those cases, but in Incarceron, it seemed like everybody – everybody – had an overblown accent. It sounds like a little thing, but it was really noticeable, and was probably one of the reasons I didn’t ever get into this book. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Eh. It’s definitely an original concept with some interesting worldbuilding, so if dystopian steampunk-y YA sci-fi is your thing, it may be worth giving Incarceron a shot… but as much as I liked the concept, I found the execution somewhat lackluster.

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First Line: Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 9:15 am

    I felt the same. I read the sequel anyway though, and the sequel was even more bizarre, and Claudia underwent a complete personality transformation (and not a good one!) from book one to book two. But these books have an incredible fan base, and there is lots of fanfic out there as well, most of which describes the [fan-desired] relationship between Claudia and her tutor.

    • July 11, 2011 12:11 pm

      rhapsody – Okay, I was already uninterested in the sequel, but I think you’ve convinced me to give it a miss.

      (And yes, the relationship between Claudia and Jared was one of the bits that I found interesting and thought was under-explored.) ;)

  2. July 6, 2011 10:32 am

    I LOVE this haiku! I can see this being applicable to a LOT of problems/issues/situations, really.

    • July 11, 2011 12:11 pm

      Care – Very true! I wasn’t trying to be philosophical, I swear. :)

  3. July 6, 2011 2:46 pm

    This probably isn’t for me.

  4. July 6, 2011 6:18 pm

    It sounds an interesting premise, but I haven’t been inspired to read anything by Catherine Fisher since I read one of hers a long time ago and found myself distinctly underwhelmed.

    • July 11, 2011 12:12 pm

      Ela – I sort of felt like I was missing something, because all these people seemed to absolutely love it, but yeah, underwhelmed is a good word.

  5. July 6, 2011 10:28 pm

    I am kind of curious about this series, but when I started book 1 I never did get around to finishing it… Probably better series out there for me to enjoy anyway…

    • July 11, 2011 12:13 pm

      Kailana – If book 1 didn’t interest you enough to finish it, I think that’s probably a fair decision.

  6. July 7, 2011 7:57 am

    I’ve never heard of this one. I don’t know if I’m going to give it a try because I usually like plots that flow.

    • July 11, 2011 12:14 pm

      carolina – It wasn’t the choppiest plot I’ve ever read, but it wasn’t the smoothest, either. A bigger problem for me was that I just didn’t connect with the characters.

  7. July 7, 2011 1:18 pm

    It does sound like an interesting premise but I think I’ll pass on this one, unless one of the honorary nieces wants me to read it.

    • July 11, 2011 12:15 pm

      Carrie – I could actually see discussing this with younger readers being pretty fun!


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