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4.0 out of 5 stars
Incarceron
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2007
Incarceron begins with two stories which weave together cleverly as the book goes on

First there's Finn who exists in some kind of huge futuristic prison called 'Incarceron' contolled by the mother of all computers. It has definite parallels to the Matrix in its enormous sense of scale, computer control and the inmates belief that a world outside can only exist in legend.
Then there's Claudia, who does live in a world outside and whose father is the warden of Incarceron. She has no idea where the prison is or how to get inside. But her desire to find out is drastically increased when she comes to believe that a person very dear to her heart was secretly imprisoned after his death was faked in order to remove him as the next heir to the throne.
It's part sci-fi, part fantasy and Finn and Claudia's possible relationship is a strong draw to the story as well. It's quite compelling, fairly original and well written.
The ending? Well there are some good twists and it's not wholly predictable, but it also leaves it wide open for a sequal or two. Whilst this is fine, it does mean that some threads are left hanging, which is slightly annoying. I would have preferred it to stand up as a complete story in its own right. It was worth the read but I'm not sure I'd make time to read the inevitable second installment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2008
I'm not going to summarise the plot as that has already been done well by other reviewers and I wouldn't want to give more away. A great book with a complex plot and two interesting worlds for the price of one. Each world is a prison in its own different way. I felt this novel was original, pacy and had a compelling storyline. It is easy to engage with a number of the characters, especially Finn and Claudia but others were suitably mysterious. Some of the plotline with Finn and Claudia can be predicted, but there is enough that makes you want to read on. I was also a bit frustrated by the fact that the ending clearly invites a sequel, but I suppose that is true of many good children's novels at the moment. There are elements of suspence, sci fi, fantasy, adventure and romance, but I wouldn't recommend it for readers under 12. Some of the intrigue and sublety would be lost on younger readers, and that would be a shame.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have to admit to being a little confused when I started reading this book. The first two chapters seemed to be set in completely different settings and eras with no explanation and I found myself rather lost. The second chapter was set in what appeared to be the 17th Century whilst the first chapter felt like a scene from a Dickens novel. It was only when I got to chapter 3 that I seemed to find my feet, becoming aware of a dystopian feel. It gave me the impression that the author had set the story on Earth, yet in some descriptions it felt too far fetched to be Earth and was more likely to be a fantasy world.

I felt I had to make this clear, because I really want you to read it. You need to have an idea of the settings of the story in order to see the bigger picture. Once I reached the third chapter, I could not put the book down. The book is over 450 pages long and I read it in two evenings! That is how good it is.

The book takes place in two very different places as I mentioned above. Firstly you have Finn, a prisoner inside Incarceron, who has a vague impression that he may have originally lived on the Outside, but as his memory seems to have deserted him, he is unsure. He is determined to find his way out of the prison which has been sealed for centuries. Only one person has ever managed to escape before.

On the outside, Claudia lives in a replica world of the 17th Century. She lives in a manor house, with servants, a tutor and an absent father, who happens to be the Warden of Incarceron. Underneath the period visage, you discover that her world is run by computers, yet they are treated as they though they don't exist. All modern elements of our world are rejected and discussed in a whisper or hidden from view. Claudia's father has arranged for her to marry a Prince she abhors. Claudia knows that something is not quite right with the world that she lives in and is desperate to get inside Incarceron to find out what is really going on in there.

As you begin to get sucked into the book, realisation dawns that both characters are really in prison. Although Claudia's life on the outside might appear to be more tolerable with all the finery's around her, you begin to realise how her life is so controlled by the society she lives in. You begin to wonder whether it is better to be inside Incarceron or out.

Catherine Fisher has managed to build an incredible world in this book. I could not help but stand back in awe of her world building abilities. She has created a prison that is an intelligent living organism and a 17th century world that is a sham. It is amazing and believable.

From the beginning, you are desperate for Finn and Claudia to find each other, yet you are totally lost in the belief that it will never happen. They both have to hurdle such difficult obstacles, that you just can't envisage an end in sight . I kept thinking they were both doomed until I reached the last couple of chapters , I just couldn't see how they would escape.

The prison is extremely scary and very unpredictable. I couldn't help but imagine it as a rather large snake, that could see and feel everything. It reminded me of the intenseness of 1984, only the Incarceron prison scared me a lot more, as it seemed to absorb its inhabitants. Extremely suffocating!

I was surprised to discover that this book is aimed at children. I found it to be quite indepth and felt that many younger children would struggle to understand it. I would have aimed it more at the teen market.

I really enjoyed Catherine Fisher's world of weirdness and can't wait to read the follow up Sapphique.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2007
Really enjoyed it, the story is gripping pretty much from the start but the last 100-150 pages have just been "WOW!" after "Oh, WOW!!!" The twists just left me gobsmacked and unable to put down the book. Although it's a children's book (and this shows in the format and the print) I didn't think the story was dumbed down at all (as it can sometimes be) and as an adult who never read children's books I was very impressed and thoroughly loved it. Another reviewer found it predictable and disappointing but no so me - read it, read it, READ IT!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Incarceron: it's a vast intelligent city-prison, sealed off from the outside world and hidden from everybody except the Warden. So it's pretty much inevitable that one day, a way out -- or a way in -- will be found. Catherine Fisher's "Incarceron" is a hauntingly original sci-fi/fantasy story, setting up two very different characters in two parts of a stagnated future world. It's kind of confusing at times, but it smoothly clicks into gear after awhile.

Both Claudia and Finn are trapped. She's the Warden's pampered daughter, and is about to be married off to a playboy prince for her father's benefit. He's an amnesiac boy in the Scum gang, plagued by seizures that give him prophetic visions.

But their lives take unexpected turns when a prisoner taken in a Scum raid on a train recognizes Finn's eagle tattoo, and he manages to get his hands on a mysterious key that might allow him to get outside -- if he can find the door. And Claudia is plotting with her dying teacher to get a mysterious key hidden in the Warden's office.

When the two keys bring Claudia and Finn into contact, Finn suddenly has hope that he can escape Incarceron -- but instead he encounters the true horrors of the secret prison. And in her desperation to avoid marrying the bratty prince, Claudia uncovers a secret plot that her father is involved with... and not only Finn's secrets, but her own.

Metal trees, stagnant royal courts, sorcery, creepy old crones and high-tech prisons that always watch with red camera eyes. The world of "Incarceron" is a pretty weird one, and it works pretty well considering it seems to be cobbled together from all sorts of strange sources -- the only real problem is that Fisher takes a VERY long time to mesh together her two main storylines. And I'm still not quite sure what the Sapienti are.

Fisher has strangely haunting, vivid prose, with lots of tangled plots and motives, and some moments of pure horror (Finn encountering a vast, freakish Beast made of bugs, dead flesh and metal). While it starts off very slow, the plot really starts speeding up when Finn and Claudia encounter each other, both in the keys and in person. And Fisher manages to throw some genuine surprises into the mix -- while keeping the door wide open for a sequel.

Claudia and Finn are likable characters who are both similar and very different -- they're trapped and manipulated, yet they both crave freedom from their terrible lives. Fisher also twines in a bunch of supporting characters whose motives are often murky -- you've got bratty princes, malevolent queens, the icy Warden, the sickly mentor Jared and the tricksteresque oathbrother Keiro.

"Incarceron" is kind of slow-moving through the first half, but fortunately there's enough plot, chills and intrigue to make up for that. And I think the story of Incarceron isn't over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 April 2010
Finn lives inside Incarceron, a vast sealed prison. The prisoners are descendants of the original inmates. In centuries only one person has ever escaped. Finn has no memory of his past up until a few years ago when he woke up in Incarceron but believes he's from Outside.

Outside, the Warden's daughter, Claudia, feels trapped in her own world. A futuristic one where 'protocol' rules, time is stuck in the 17th century - at least on the surface - and an arranged marriage looms.

The adventure itself is essentially a tale of the prisoners of Incarceron trying to find their way out, helped along by contact with a couple of outsiders. Through this adventure we find out all about Incarceron, how it came to be and what it's like in there. While a lot of detail is given, I get the impression what is revealed in the book isn't the whole story though and that makes me want to read the second book even more.

There's so much detail and plot twists in this book that the pages just kept turning because I just had to find out what happened next. Even with a complex world and great plot, for me the thing that stood out the most in this book were the characters. They are well rounded and described in enough detail that you really feel like you know them.

There's so much about this book that it would appeal to all kinds of readers. Even if you don't like the scifi/fantasy genre, it's worth reading just for the characters and the relationships they build with each other.
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on 31 January 2013
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.

Rating: 3.5/5
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on 8 April 2012
This review is a hard one for me to write. I started reading this book in October of 2011, but put it down after reading 200 pages because I couldn't really be bothered with what happened. I hoped it was the fact that I wasn't in the mood for a book like this, so I put it down and picked it back up in 2012. It definitely got better at that point - it seems like I put it down at the end of the not so eventful part, but it still didn't blow me away.

Incarceron is told from two perspectives: Finn, who is inside the prison, and does not know about an outside, although there have been rumors. When he gets his hands on a mysterious key, he is able to get in contact with Claudia, who provides us with the second perspective. She lives outside the prison, in the 'real world', where people live 'in era', which means they live in a 17/18th century kind of style without technology, although it does exists and people use it in secret.

While the book is labeled as a dystopian, I don't think it's that easy to put this book in that box. Because of the lack of technology in most of the novel, when it is used, it feels a bit like a steampunkish kind of genre. However, when that's not the case, you would also be able to label it as a form of fantasy, which is the case with the outside scenes. It's such a mesh of genres that it wouldn't be fitting to label this book solely a dystopian, even though technically, I guess that's what seems to come closest.

The characters fell rather flat for me. I liked Finn, I guess, and in some parts I liked Claudia, too. But it was hard for me to connect with their stories, because it felt like it was so far away. I didn't feel like I was experiencing their stories, I felt like I was watching it from afar and that was part of why it was hard to get into the story. The only person I felt held promise, was Jared, a Sapient who was Claudia's mentor. At some points there was great chemistry between him and Claudia and I feel like he could have been involved more in the story. Concerning the antagonists, both the Evil Queen Who Made Her Son Disappear, and the Warden of Incarceron (Claudia's father), I had no idea what their intentions were and why they were bad/evil/a pain. It was never explained why the Queen was the way she was, and I felt like I needed the explanation for it to work for the story.

Having said that, Incarceron was probably one of the most imaginitive books I've read in a while. The combination of all different aspects made for a possibly great book, but unfortunately, it wasn't that great for me personally. The pacing was great, I liked the combination of all the different elements and some of the characters showed a lot of potential at times, even though I felt like that wasn't fully explored during the story. My favorite parts were inside Incarceron, because I felt more disconnected from Claudia's outside world. All in all, I think people who love both dystopian and fantasy, not necessarily together, will enjoy this book a whole lot.
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on 7 July 2011
I enjoyed the Snow walker series but was disappointed with the format of this book. A bloke in a prison trying to get out, but we know he gets out because the next book in the series starts with him out. That's the problem with sequels for me, they make the first book predictable. From the beginning it was fairly obvious the way thing would pan out.
I felt the same way with Lord of the rings. It was obvious the ring would get there in the end and so much of the story was just padding. I'm probably just not suited to stories where the participants make some sort of journey and you know they'll get there in the end as I lose interest in what happens to them on the way.
The whole idea of the prison was interesting, but a bit odd as it wasn't clear what happened to prisoners in current times as it sounded as though they stopped sending prisoners there a while ago at the end of the book where as at the beginning of the book it was portrayed as an active prison. It seemed an increasingly pointless place as the book went on. Stopping the prison inhabitants breeding by putting contraceptives in the water and letting them all just die so the prison is phased out and could be destroyed would have made more sense.
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on 2 August 2013
Best fantasy novel I have read in a long time! I found one of the characters (Claudia) a bit annoying at the end but I was really happy when I found out that there is a second book! So I'm going to start reading that asap. Really good story line and the story would make you think you've predicted something, but then take you in a completely different direction, utterly surprising you. Such a great read and I would definitely recommend to all fantasy and even non fantasy readers out there.
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