Author: Catherine Fisher
Series: Incarceron #1
Genre: YA Future Dystopia
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Summary (from Goodreads)
Incarceron — a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology — a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber — chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison — a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device — a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn’s escape is born …
What’s Good About It
There are a lot of good ideas in Incarceron. I loved the idea of people being forced to live in a historic era, with contraband technologies hidden behind closed doors as an impeccably period front is presented for the benefit of visitors and passers by. The prison itself – a sprawling labyrinth of tunnels, each lined with blinking red eyes, always watching – is another great idea, truly menacing in its execution.
Claudia is a great character. Manipulative and driven, she’s not the typical YA main character and that was so refreshing. So was the brutality of some of the elements of Incaceron, which will keep fans of The Hunger Games’ brand of violence satiated.
But far and away my favourite thing was the idea of material recycling in Incarceron, and how gradually the prison was running out of biological materials, forcing it to make sheep (and sometimes people) out of a hybrid of biological stuff and metal. Cyborg sheep! Awesome. How a closed system, totally self sustained is losing material, I don’t know. The part of me that took A Level Chemistry rebels against the idea, but the image of cyborg sheep totally wins over the geek in me.
What’s Not So Good
Some of it was a bit twee. I mean, talking keys? And the science was a good idea, but a bit dubious. It sort of fell into the space between fantasy and science fiction, with some elements paraded as science that felt a little too fantastical for me.
Some of the foreshadowing was a little obvious too. I’d worked out what was going on with Keiro after about three chapters, which annoyed me. I like working things out before the characters as much as I like a really satisfying surprise twist, but working it out before the book’s even underway is just irritating. It becomes less about when the characters will figure out, and more ‘why haven’t they yet??’
But, minor issues aside, this was still an enjoyable book. I wouldn’t hunt down the sequel, but if I see it, I will pick it up.