Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Published January 26th 2010 by Dial
(first published May 3rd 2007)
They said it was paradise. A self-contained, delicately crafted, and thoughtfully detailed Utopia where the misguided degenerates from above were sent to be given a second chance at life, a place of reformation and of transcendence. The finest minds and scholars were called upon to enter the prison and guide it's inmates on their experimental journey to reclamation. Once inside, scholar's and inmates alike were forever closed off from the world they knew, leaving only the bright, remarkable, yet undiscovered future that awaits them within Incarceron.
For one hundred and fifty years Incarceron has remained closed, confident that the experiment was successful and those within lead new lives unencumbered by the outside world. For one hundred and fifty years...they have lied.
Incarceron is no mere holding cell, it has morphed into a living, breathing thing, its inhabitants becoming part of its make up, of its very being, their lives changing with each new warped, twisted metamorphosis the prison makes. It is dark. It is evil. It is forever and inescapable. Few of the scholars remain, their hold over the Prison severed long ago, and their understanding of how Incarceron operates, lost.
But there are whispers. Whispers that live within the very walls of the prison itself. Whispers Incarceron knows to be true. Once, someone got out and once...someone new was put in. Outside, people start to to question the truth of Incarceron's story, and inside, the prisoners...have found a way out.
The decay was gradual and we were slow to recognize it. Then, one day, I had been talking with the Prison, and as I left the room, I heard it laugh. A low, mocking chuckle.
The sound turned me cold. I stood in the corridor and the thought came to me of an ancient image I had once seen in a fragmented manuscript, of the enormous mouth of Hell devouring sinners.
It was then I knew we had created a demon that would destroy us.
-Lord Calliston's Diary
Finn is a prisoner who was born and bred within Incarceron, but has memories of another world, and an unexplainable recollection of what the stars look like in the night sky. The inmates know he is different. He knows he is different, but no one would ever believe it possible that he came from the outside. No one enters the prison.
Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, the man appointed by the royal family to safeguard the prison and it's prisoners. It is his duty to preserve the mystery of the prison and conceal it's only means of entrance. Claudia has been raised and molded to be Queen. Her father's position and the necessity to keep the prison's secret have made her into a powerful tool of the kingdom. She is soon to wed the royal family's second son, a dimwitted, cruel boy who is a distant second to the heir that was lost some years ago. Claudia doesn't trust her father one bit, and the very idea of being forced to marry the Prince has made her reckless. When she steals an odd crystal key hidden away in her father's study, she hears Finn's voice from deep within it, a voice she knows she has heard before.
I made myself sick reading this book. I mean that in the best way possible, in that I didn't eat, move, answer the phone, sleep, or remember to breathe. I love the mad rush that comes with not being able to focus on anything else until you KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Suspenseful and disturbingly imaginative, I didn't dare stop reading for fear that this ever changing story would continue to evolve without me.
Claudia lives in a world so under the control of the Queen and the Warden that it is just as oppressive as any prison. The late king had commanded that the people maintain a sort of theme, act out a past era and they live in a make believe world of castles and poofy skirts and deceit. All the technology and intelligence their civilization has uncovered must be carefully masked under the king's ordered facade, where as in contrast the prison is a jumble of mutation and robotics. It made it impossible to comfortably place the story in any set time period. I could have been reading historical fantasy or science fiction or neither. When first introduced to Incarceron I immediately pictured the prison as being something underground, inescapable yes but just under foot and very real. I was just a bit, dead wrong.
The story is told both within and out of the prison, each existence unfathomable to the other and both not knowing just how close they really are. Incarceron is a horrible place, but I'm not so sure the world that Fisher has created outside is any better. I don't know what I want to happen! Finn is our hero (or so we think), but these are prisoners, most of them were locked up for a reason. Do I want there to be a way out of Incarceron?
Sapphique, the sequel was released December 28, 2010 and a book fairy was kind enough to lend it to me. Holiday goings on have limited reading time and I know I want to have a clear schedule before I pick it up and get book lost. Have you read this? What do you want to happen?