Monday, March 22, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Well, it took until nearly the end of March but I finally found my first great book of the year. Which isn't to say that I haven't read a few others that I enjoyed, just that this is the first one I feel the need to encourage everyone I know to read.

Catherine Fisher's Incarceron is one of those ambitious epic stories. However, to Fisher's credit and obvious writing experience, Incarceron never becomes overwhelming. Finn's epic fantasy quest is balanced by Claudia's more intimate Regency-esque plot. On their own, either storyline would make a decent—and very different—novel. Together, they form a brilliant one.

Dual narratives are not easy to do well. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan stubbornly adhered to its single POV per chapter even after the narratives intersected. This created a very choppy novel by allowing the structure to dictate whose POV we followed. Incarceron is more successful, as the POV follows whom it needs to follow for the sake of the story.

Ironically, my only technical complaint about Incarceron is the few instances where Fisher jumps POV while in a scene. She'll do a paragraph or two with Finn then switch to Claudia. I understand why it's happening—the scene isn't linked to perspective as much as purpose—but it did jar me out of the narrative once or twice. Largely because we're well into the novel before this more omnipotent POV is employed—giving the impression that the structure is alternating limited third person. Thus, my confusion.

I've read that Incarceron has been optioned by Fox; it doesn't surprise me someone wants to do a film adaptation. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book is the amazing world and it's stunning imagery. There is a forest of metal; stop for a moment and consider how brilliant that is going to look onscreen.

Incarceron draws on everything from Dante to Jane Austen. There's adventure, intrigue, a tiny dash of romance, and lots of chewy philosophy. I emphasis that this is a fantasy novel. In a section overstaturated with paranormal romance, Incarceron is a refreshing find.

This book is all about the cells that we build for ourselves, both psychologically and physically. You're going to be hard-pressed to find a more interesting antagonist than a living prison.

As for the plot? Incarceron could be a long lost Square Enix game. It has those comforting familiarities, but it's different enough to keep you interested. You feel compelled to see it through to the end. I knew a "twist" from about chapter four on—and it didn't get in the way of enjoying the novel. That's a rarity. Usually knowing where a book is headed bores me, but Fisher's vision and method of fully employing her world kept me hooked.

When I wasn't reading Incarceron, I was wondering what would happen next. As a result, I read most of the book in a single day because I didn't want to do anything else. When I reached the end, breathless, all I could think was "there has to be more!"

According to Catherine Fisher's website, there is a sequel called Sapphique. I've gone looking for the UK edition because I can't wait until December to see if Finn has a total identity meltdown and hits things with the Key. (Yes, that was a Kingdom Hearts II reference.)

So go read Incarceron. If you can't get access to the UK edition of Sapphique, the US version is set to drop in late December.


Ethanael said...

"chewy philosophy"?

Chandra Rooney said...

It's taffy for the mind.