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A Reader of Fictions: This Place Is a Prison - The Postal Service

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Place Is a Prison - The Postal Service

Incarceron
Incarceron, Book 1

Author: Catherine Fisher
Genre: young adult, fantasy, dystopia
Pages: 448

Brief Summary:
Finn cannot remember a time before he awakened in one of Incarceron's cells at the age of 15. He fervently believes that he came from Outside the prison and that his visions (he is a Starseer to the people in Incarceron; one who has visions of the Outside, of escape) are actually memories of before he arrived here. No one else believes him, because they all no the truth: no one enters or leaves Incarceron. Except, maybe, for Sapphique, a legend who supposedly escaped ages ago. The appearance of a mysterious crystal key, along with a timely vision leads Finn on a quest to find out his past and to find a way out of Incarceron.

Meanwhile, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, seeks the truth about Incarceron, a perfect community set up...somewhere. Her father keeps secrets and is incredibly distant. Her search becomes ever more frantic when she learns that her wedding to Prince Caspar, a horrible excuse for a human being, has been moved up. She wanted to marry Giles, her original betrothed who was killed in a horseback riding accident, but is stuck with this oaf instead. Perhaps if she can learn enough, she can escape, one way or another, this dreadful union.

Review:
For the last several months, I have been on a dystopia reading kick. Of the ones on my list to read, this one ranked highly on the expectations scale. In fact, the book was even highly recommended to me. Unfortunately, expectation does not by any means guarantee that the expected outcome will be the one to occur. Incarceron failed to grab me at any and all points. Not to say that it was awful, because it wasn't. It just failed to entice me; I read it out of some sense of duty, rather than a drive to find out what would happen or to enjoy the language.

I think, and I do use the speculative verb intentionally, that my problem here resulted from an inability to suspend disbelief for this book. Before anyone gets too accusatory, let me assure you that this is often not a problem for me. See previous reviews for support of this fact. Incarceron lacked some of the back story that would have helped me buy into this absurd society. Without some explanation of the crazy wars that lead to this situation or an example legal document setting the systems in place (as was done in Unwind), I had trouble figuring out how this system could possibly have been the chosen solution. There are documents at the beginning of the chapters but they say little more than "There was a crazy war, so we will do this" (paraphrased). This just didn't convince me entirely. A lot of the physical descriptions of the workings of Incarceron are also baffling and perhaps entirely inconceivable. I would give a specific example, but to do so would contain spoilers, so I won't.

What it all comes down to though is that I just did not care. One of the mysteries of the book is whether Sapphique escaped or not, assuming he existed at all. I suppose I should have been speculating about whether he did as I read and new information was revealed. This I did not do. I just read patiently and waited for information to be revealed. I could care only slightly less about whether the evil forces lost and whether anyone escaped from the prison, and even whether Claudia had to marry the obnoxious prince (especially since any descriptions of her given by other people were entirely unflattering personality-wise).

For my part, I would recommend reading The Maze Runner instead of this book, even though I had mixed feelings about that book as well. A lot of the themes within them reminded me of one another and I thought that one had a slightly better premise. Still, lots of people have loved this one, so if you're up for it, go right on ahead.

"This place is a prison
These people aren't your friends
Inhaling thrills through $20 bills
Tumblers are drained and then flooded again and again

There's guards at the on ramps armed to the teeth
And you may case the grounds
From the Cascades to Puget Sound
But you are not permitted to leave

I know there's a big world out there."

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