So Incarceron seems to be following the trend of dark sci-fi/fantasy in sorta post-apocalyptic settings that I've been seeing a lot of in the books I read lately. This book reminds me particularly of The Maze Runner (which, um, I forgot to review when I read it a couple weeks back, oops), but also of stuff like The Hunger Games, the Chaos Walking books, and sort of like Leviathan, too (another book that missed a review). So, yeah, there's a talking point. Have any of you guys out there noticed this YA fiction trend, or is it all in my head?
But anyway, let's talk about Incarceron on its own merits. So I started reading the book at about four o'clock in the afternoon the day I got it, and I finished it at 10:30. Six and a half hours, during which I also attended class for an hour and forty-five minutes, got dinner, took an online test, and played Civilization II. So, uh, yeah, I freaking blazed through this book, all things considered. Shades of The Knife of Never Letting Go. So, yeah, this was a pretty gripping read (unlike the books in the previous review).
Basically, Incarceron is a prison. One that sounds like some sort of Transformer or other type of giant robot, but anyway. It's this mega prison that was designed as sort of a grand experiment in prisoner reform. However, if things had really worked out like that, we wouldn't have a story. Instead, we meet Finn, a young man who's a member of a gang inside Incarceron. He and his band are just one of the many groups who struggle to survive inside the intelligent, malevolent prison. Then one day he finds a key, a link to the outside world. Enter Claudia, daughter of no less important a person than the very Warden of Incarceron. (Heh, the name still amuses me. "Incarceron destroy puny humans!") Claudia, once she's clued into the fact that Incarceron isn't the paradise it's supposed to be, is totally cool with helping Finn and his friends escape. However, she's not a total altruist. She's got problems of her own in the outside world, and she thinks Finn is the key to solving them.
So first of all, the characters. I like Finn. He's a pretty decent guy, for all that he's spent his life in a giant freaking prison. Compared to his companions, he's not at all a ruthless thug. Good, solid hero character with a nice bit of mystery in his past. (Isn't that always the case?) As for Claudia, what I liked about her character is that she's somewhat selfishly motivated. She doesn't want to help the prisoners just because she's a good person (and she is, we do see that), but she's got her own reasons for wanting Finn to be freed. And it makes sense, given her upbringing. Her father raised her to be the perfect queen and to have a chance in the court lifestyle. But, yeah, I just liked that because I have a fondness for characters with human weaknesses (see also Galinda in Wicked the musical). But anyway, besides the main characters, the supporting cast is also well drawn. Kiero is pretty complex in his own right, leaving you perpetually unsure of his true loyalty, and the Warden is similarly inscrutable. Well, next there's the setting, and I have to admit, the first chapter from Claudia's viewpoint threw me 'cause I didn't know why we were suddenly back in Regency times (or whichever period the Era is actually mimicking). But it the important thing is that this works. Incarceron is freaky and nightmarish, but you get, like, a Stepford Suburbia feel from the outside world that's just as bad. The worlds play off and reveal things about each other that just intensifies the mystery and subtle horror. And as for the plot, well, it's good. Good foreshadowing for the most part, unfolds at a nice clip for all the revelations, high stakes for the conflict, and, strewth, does it ever leave off at a cliffhanger point.
Well, I wanted to say more about this book at some point, but this review has been languishing on my desktop for long enough, so I'll just post it. Currently rereading the Chronicles of Prydain and Airman, so there won't be reviews for those.