Author: Catherine Fisher
Format & Pages: Hardcover, 442
Publication: Dial Books, 2007
Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can’t remember his childhood and he believes he came from Outside Incarceron. He’s going to escape, even though most inmates don’t believe that Outside even exists. And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia.
Claudia claims to live Outside-her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she’s doomed to an arranged marriage. If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return.
But they don’t realize that this is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.
Because Incarceron is Alive.”
I was very intrigued by Incarceron when I read the inside flap. A living prison with an array of various geographies inside and who would even think to build such a place? I don’t usually read stories that are dark and gloomy, but this one piqued my interest.
Fisher has created, in essence, two separate worlds. There is the world inside Incarceron, which is dark, depressing, and very dangerous. Then there is the world Outside, bright and beautiful and as equally as dangerous as the prison. We see these two places through the eyes of Finn and Claudia, respectively. Both of them are prisoners to their worlds, both playing in a deadly game. While these worlds are vastly different, they are intimately connected.
Finn and Claudia are the two characters that Fisher focuses on the most. I initially had a hard time liking either of them, though Claudia was more likeable in the beginning for me. Under the strictness of the Protocol, anyone would feel like a prisoner with no way to escape. As the story progressed, though, I found that switched, with me liking Finn and caring for him more than Claudia. It came from Finn’s determination and endearment for his companions. While all of the characters have an abundance of flaws, there are few redeeming qualities among them. I found Jared to be the most fascinating of all of them and his interactions with Claudia are what kept me reading. Throughout the story Jared is the only one that Claudia seems to truly care about, which is one of the reasons I really do not like her.
There was quite a bit of foreshadowing throughout the novel. I think it was rather superbly done. When things started to reveal themselves I was able to connect the little tid-bits that I had read earlier to make perfect sense of the situation. That being said, the ending left a lot to be hoped for. There were numerous questions that ended up being raised that were left unanswered. Plot threads were left loose and dangling. It was very unsatisfying. The ending is almost happy, yet at the same time things only mostly worked out, causing it to be unhappy at the same time. There is a second in the series, so I am hoping that answers the linger questions. But the ending most certainly disappointed me.
I found that there was a bit of a philosophical undercurrent to the whole text. There is the focus on freedom and how a person can truly be free. There is the nagging doubt of who a person really is and what influences their personality. Some very deep concepts are subtly explored. I did appreciate that as it slightly heightened the reading experience, but this is something I only realized and really reflected on once I was done reading it.