Tag Archive: science fiction


Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Ages 15 and up

Seventeen-year-old Finn has been a prisoner of Incarceron for as long as he can remember. Which isn’t very long. He has adapted to life in the self-sustaining prison, but is still haunted by the vague memories of a past he can’t fully grasp. When the leader of a rival group is captured, news of a crystal key that is strangely linked to Finn surfaces. Through the key, he meets Claudia, a young woman trying to escape marriage to a man that she cannot stand. More interested in the truth than in the power that would come with being queen, Claudia–whose father is the warden of Incaceron–agrees to help Finn if he will help her. Guided by what small help Claudia can give him, Finn sets off with his oath-brother Keiro, the slave Attia and Gildas, whose ancestors helped to create Incarceron. What he discovers as he tries to find the way out is that Incarceron is alive…and it doesn’t want to let its prisoners go.

This book was one of those “Oh. My. Gosh. I’m going to cry because I have to put this down” books. I had Finn all figured out by Chapter Four, who he was is quite obvious (in my opinion) and I think perhaps Fischer meant for it to be that way. Knowing what I knew (sorry for the vagueness, but spoilers) added one more layer to the suspense. Because knowing that did not guarantee that Finn and his friends would make it out of Incarceron, it just made twice as important that he did. It was beautiful.

The premise of this book intrigued me at first. I thought that most of the book would be spent in the dungeons of Incarceron, but it was not. It was split about half and half between Incarceron and what the inmates dub “the Outside”. Claudia is from the Outside, which means that we get a picture of post-World War whatever human society. And it has been trapped in time. I thought it was a bit odd at first, the strange mix of the technological and historical that that Fischer worked in. But she made it work. This kind of book has been done, time and time again. If you look at the YA shelves there are two prevalent trends that you might notice, the vampire  stories and the dystopian novels. This book falls into the later category. And yet, Fischer creates something unique with this society by taking it back a few centuries. The technology is there, but protocol prevents them from using it–even if it is a matter of life and death.

The cast of characters in this book is vast, but the main characters are fleshed out nicely. There are no filler characters here. She capitalizes on her characters, developing their personalities along with the plot. Every revelation–especially in Finn and Claudia’s cases–drives the plot forward. And forward and forward. I was very glad to discover that there was a second book, for while the ending sated me for a little while there was still quite a bit left unanswered.

Another high point as an author, was the way she handled the various points of view. Each character had a voice and way of looking at the world. She handled the changing viewpoints very well, especially in a book where it must have been tempting to jump around a little. Expect to find more of her works reviewed here in the future.

A bit dark for younger readers, I would save this for mid-teens at the least. But still, if you like books in the realm of Hunger Games or Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series, this book should be on your list. Also, if you are in any way inclined to mixtures of sci-fi and historical fiction…again you might want to take some for this book.

This book is a good example of:

  • Creating audience suspense
  • Shifting viewpoint
  • Character-driven plot
  • Plot twists
  • World building

This book is on my recommended reading list.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Ages 15 and up

This is a series that I had been looking forward to reading for months. It was recommended by a friend who has impeccable taste in books. However, said friend also mentioned that the second book, Catching Fire, happens to have a doozy of a cliffhanger ending. So I thought, that knowing how well I don’t handle cliffhangers–it might be wise for me to wait until the final book was in stores. All of that to give my excuse for taking this long to finally read the series. That said–there is no excuse for not reading this series. None at all. Ever. You get the point.

From start to finish, Collins leads the reader (which will hopefully be you) through an intense journey–one of the most intense journeys I have ever been through as a reader. I was literally shaking when I finished Mockingjay. Collins kept me wanting to turn to the next page a little sooner, yet she was so in control that when I had to put the book down and carry on with my life I could. I wasn’t worried about what would happen next (except with the last 100 hundred pages, but that was excitement rather than wory). It was sort of riveted detachment. That’s not a contradiction I’ve experienced before.

Granted, it is a violent series. the premise introduced in Hunger Games–a sadistic Olympics where 24 teens fight until only one is left standing–guarantees some blood and violence. But I’ve read gorier (The Illiad anyone?) and some of that is considered classic literature (see previous aside) with the gore only there for shock value (see again).  Here it helps define the struggle of the main character to hold on to her humanity–or at least have some remaining when the games are over. It also provides an interesting glimpse of where mindless entertainment can lead. For the parents of young teens I would suggest reading this book before you let them, if only to know what the heck they are talking about when they want to discuss it.

And while we are on the subject of character: Collins has created some beautiful characters. Her mastery of the first-person narrative had Katniss commenting on aspects on my own life long after the books were finished. Her thought process felt as complicated and conflicted as my own can feel in times of stress. Plus, Collins creates a legitimate love triangle. I’m not talking about a childhood acquaintance thrown in just to stir up drama when the guy you know the heroine will end up with skips town. I’m talking two guys, each with equally strong (but different) ties to her heart. Even though I had an idea of who Collins was setting her up with (and I agree with her choice), I spent the majority of books two and three quite content with her ending with either guy. Partly, because romance wasn’t really what this story was about–it’s merely a piece of the big picture (If that isn’t a lot like life, I don’t know what is.)

This is obviously not a light, fluffy read. It was fun in places, but also hard. After all that Katniss goes through though, happily ever after is not an ending that she can immediately reach. She’s been through too much to be completely okay by the end of Mockingjay’s 27 chapters, but she (well, they) is on her way there and still fighting like she has from page one. This series is real, it’s not a happy-go-lucky fairytale–but it’s also not entirely a tragedy. It is well-written and thought provoking and surprising (yes, it’s not something I experience very often so it should count for double). And quite possibly among one of the best series you will ever read.

I take that back–There is no possibly about it.

Who Should read This: Any one who enjoys future fics with post-Apocalypse premises.

This is a Good Example of:

  • First person narrative
  • Relationships between characters (both friends and enemies)
  • Character development
  • Plot and story twists
  • Balance of overall big picture with character’s romantic life
  • How to have you readers banging at the bookstore door begging for the next book (See specifically, Catching Fire)

This book is one my recommended reading list.

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