Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: It was hard to convey my overall views on this book. I feel like this review is very much a 'I can't put my fingers on what was wrong' type of review, so I apologize if it seems rather chaotic.
Incarceron is a book with some interesting ideas, and some intensely visual imagery. Catherine Fisher put some imagination into crafting this story, and I tip my hat to the author for that. However, my overall feeling after finishing it is disappointment. Unfortunately, there were aspects that worked for me, but as a whole creation, I wasn't impressed.
One could argue that the disconnect might be due to having listened to this on audio, but I don't think that is the cause. I liked the narrator, and this would have been a more pleasant listening experience if everything had made more sense and tied together more fluidly.
My biggest issue: I felt that the ideas didn't come together coherently. I continued to listen, hoping that I would gain that clarity I was seeking. Sadly, further listening didn't correct this deficit, and I gained little to no further evolution in my understanding. Unfortunately, my interest level suffered as a result.
I never realized the author's end-goal here. I realize this is a series, but I am a big believer that books in a series should end in such a way that they are self-contained, even if one doesn't continue the series. I hate that emotional blackmail of a cliffhanger ending or feeling I need to 'read more' to get that total picture. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I think Fisher is a good writer when it comes to imagery and ideas. But the overall plotting and story-structure of this novel was weak, in my opinion. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but this is my overall perception. Expectations are a powerful thing. For me, at least, they can make or break a book. I found myself wanting more than I was getting from this story because of the interesting ideas stimulating my imagination to believe in its potential. That was an emotional failing for this book. On an analytical level, I felt as though my thought processes were pulled in too many directions, like a flow chart that goes all wonky and it never gets to the final destination. Instead, I was on a wild goose chase to find out the overall point of the story.
Other Things I Want to Touch On:
1)I really liked the concept of the self-aware prison that had developed its own ecosystem and many generations of inhabitants. The idea of the prison recycling its inhabitants and using inorganic components when necessary was rather twisted, but it makes sense. The prison(as a 'great experiment') microcosm does shine light on the inherent flaws of any so-called utopian ideal, which I believe is doomed to fail, due to the flawed aspects of human nature.
2)I liked the idea of the lost prince who finds himself living as a pauper, with a secret destiny that calls him to something bigger.
3)There are mystical aspects with the legendary Sapphique, who is the only person who has successfully escaped the prison. But I was left with a big question mark that felt like a set-up for the next book. As I said, that is a Major pet peeve of mine.
4)The concept that a futuristic group of peoples might reject the ideals of scientific progress and retreat to the classic/archaic modes of living--that gave me something to think about, and I felt it was pretty clever.
5)I loved Claudia's relationship with her teacher, Jared. Jared is probably one of my favorite characters, in fact. Their relationship was a substitute father/daughter bond teamed with a level of deep friendship and mutual respect. This was one of the most well-developed relationships in the book, and part of why I would give this book three stars rather than 2.75 stars, which I was leaning toward doing. On the downside, I wanted to know what his chronic illness was. That lack of explanation really nagged at me as I read about his symptoms/suffering.
6)I liked Attia a lot. She was feisty, resourceful, and loyal. She turned out to be a lot more complex character than I expected. I would have liked her as a romantic interest for someone, be it Finn, Keiro, or even Jared (since I get the feeling he's not that much older than Claudia. Maybe ten years or so).
5)Finn and Claudia were okay. I agree with my GRs friend Zeek in that they never really touched me. Claudia fell flat as a character, and Finn needed more fleshing out. I was okay with the romantic possibilities between them, but I probably needed more romantic tension if that was the author's goal to develop their relationship in this direction.
6)Keiro was annoying and unlikable for most of this book. The reveal about his anxieties and self-doubt didn't endear him to me, because it was came too late and too abruptly. His motivations didn't speak to me at all. He seemed like a shallow, self-serving bully who only cared about two things: 1) Himself and 2) Finn. I do think he cared about Finn, and that was his saving grace in my mind.
Overall, I can't really cheer for this book. It left me feeling rather flat and ambivalent, with an "If Only" feeling. Sometimes you want more than a book can deliver. Such was the case here.
Will I read the next book? I'm not in a hurry to do so. If it shows up at my library on audio, perhaps.
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