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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

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Incarceron - Catherine Fisher

I found the setting, the idea of the book, more interesting than the characters and action. And yes, I do mean that the setting is the idea. Incarceron is an unfathomably huge prison, self-sustaining and completely cut off from outside contact. Built centuries before the unspecified future age in which the story takes place, it was meant to be a utopia where prisoners were rehabilitated and formed their own communities, never returning to the rest of society. But the prison itself is aware and seems not to care about reform the "criminals," who at the point of the story are generations removed from those condemned and hardly believe there is an outside. Their lives are meager and desperate, surviving by theft and violence in an environment of increasingly scarce resources. The world they left behind is hardly in better shape, thanks to decrees that emulate the world of early modern Europe and forbid progress or social advancement. The majority of people are poor and illiterate, fearfully serving a tiny elite who scheme constantly, trapped in an empty and stagnant system.

In the prison we begin with Finn, a boy with no memories who survives by joining a band of thugs and helping them rob and enslave others. He and his oathbrother Keiro take a strange crystal from a woman they capture. It allows Finn to communicate with Claudia, a girl in the outside world who is the daughter of the prison's Warden. Aside from Finn and Claudia I didn't feel the characters were developed adequately, especially the villains. This was especially noticeable to me as I recently read Fisher's Darkhenge, which focuses much more on emotional and domestic concerns; one might say it examines a microcosm whereas Incarceron invents a macrocosm.

I was a little annoyed by the extreme cliffhanger ending, as I didn't really like this so much that I want to read the sequel.