Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a decent book that could have been better. Should have been better, really. The concept's a cool one (although it seems to have been done some before in the past): a boy wakes up in a prison with no memory of how he got there, and only vague memories of his past. Coupled with this is another plotline: a girl who's betrothed to the next king, in a world very unlike the world the boy finds himself in. Of course, we find out the two worlds are connected. The girl's world created what was supposed to be a paradise controlled by a computer. The boy lives in that "paradise," where everything went wrong and the happiness disappeared a long time ago.
So, what did I like? The plot was brisk enough, moving forward in a sort of "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" way. The characters were fairly engaging, and the conflict engrossing. You'll note that I'm using disclaimers here--I clearly wasn't blown away by the book. It took me three weeks to finish, which I think is a sign right there: I just wasn't captivated enough to be swept away and dive into the book.
So what didn't I like? My biggest complaint is that the book is riddled with poor use of magic/sci-fi elements. In a good fantasy/sci-fi book, the rules are clearly established. You can't just do "anything"--the author shows early on what is possible and impossible in the world, and then those rules are adhered to religiously. Not so in this book. The author constantly disclosed elements that conveniently caused trouble or--worse still--solved conflict. It's hard to get involved in the action when the action is solved by a "oh wait--I have this magic ______ that will solve this for us" technique.
Another complaint stems from this: often the description of what was going on was just too vague for me. The fantasy and sci-fi elements were nebulous. I had a hard time picturing what was being described and how it was affecting our characters.
Really, in light of these two critiques, it's a testament to how good the rest of the book was that I still gave it three stars. In other words, if you're not as big of a stickler for fantasy as I am, you might very well really enjoy this book. :-) I've returned it, and it's waiting for you even as we speak, on the Discoveries shelf.
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