Book Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I’ve been trying to think of a sentence that sums up Incarceron. It’s got so many of the conventions of YA/Teen literature that I enjoy that it’s kind of hard to describe.

Incarceron Is The Hunger Games In The City Of Ember — i09

It took me awhile to get into it, and I think I was just coming off the high that was The Spellman Files–sometimes it takes time for me to land on a book after an excellent read, especially if I’m going into it completely cold. I really didn’t know anything about Incarceron, other than that it came highly recommended.

Incarceron is a prison. A prison with a thousand-million inmates. No one enters, no one leaves. No one even knows where it is. After some kind of evil upheaval in the past, the world (in the distant future) is bound by The Protocol–a law which requires that everyone lives in a pretense of the 17th-century. At the same time, people cheat a bit, technology is everywhere, except in plain sight (it’s actually a really intelligent commentary on perception and facades in society).

Claudia is the daughter of the warden of Incarceron, the most powerful man at the royal court, and he has schemed throughout her entire life to arrange her marriage to the heir to the throne, Prince Casper. He’s her second betrothal, since the untimely death of Prince Giles. She’s tried, for a very long time, to break into her father’s study and find out about Incarceron. She’s felt drawn to it for some reason, and she eventually discovers a secret to accessing the elusive prison. At the same time, a prisoner of Incarceron, Finn, a star-seer who doesn’t seem to belong there, hopes to find his way out and achieving his destiny.

Thematically, much like most dystopic novels, this comments much on human nature. Incarceron was originally specially designed by the best social engineers to develop into a (surprise!) utopian society. Unfortunately, this did not happen, because human nature took over and the place descended into madness and terror. The society fragmented and digressed, and all hell broke loose. To add to it all, the prison was overseen by an artificial intelligence which developed sentience and enjoyed its role as prison guard.

I feel that i09’s description is apt, as this is a lot like The Hunger Games in that we have a post-apocalyptic dystopia which foists a false culture upon the civilization, oppressive of its inhabitants while denying the notion that there is a problem. It’s reminiscent of The City of Ember (a really enjoyable read) in the setting  of the prison. The inhabitants don’t know where it is, and most believe that the whole world is the dark, dank, murderous, sentient prison that is Incarceron. I think that this plays upon many of the elements of popular YA/Teen fiction, and does it very well.


One thought on “Book Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

  1. This just came in for me and I have no clue when I am going to read it!

    Of course, I am very excited for it but I may start the passage first.

    But I don’t know.

    Seriously, what’s happening to me??? I have like 5 books going on at the same time!?!?


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