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I'm a grad student, an avid reader, a huge nerd, fervent roleplayer, wife, cat lover, tea snob, and obsessive keeper of lists.
Incarceron - Catherine Fisher How many different forms of imprisonment are there? How irrevocable are they? What does living in that kind of prison do?

I admire Incarceron for trying something that felt a bit new, and I generally enjoyed the story. I'm not sure I'd go back to reread it, though, so that's my personal line for a four-star book. But although this is a three-star review, it's worth checking out.

Incarceron is science fiction, even though it initially feels like fantasy, feudal society and all. But no, it turns out that it's a very technologically advanced society that has artificially restricted technological levels by forcing everyone to live as though they were in the past. (How that would quite work, maybe a bit dicey, but it's an interesting idea.) People break this all the time though - did you really think those servants were scrubbing clothes down by the river?

But in this highly stratified society, which is all sorts of its own kind of prison, both by the time period they've chosen in to live in, the highly structured and immobile class structure (if you weren't well off when the edict came down, I'd guess you're screwed. Peasant.) And by the extreme court politics.

But much more literal is the prison itself, where, hundreds of years before, every criminal, dissident, radical, and person-who-looked-at-the-king-sideways was rounded up and put into Incarceron, along with some scholars, with the hope of a) getting rid of them and b) building a utopia. Why they thought it would be an utopia, a little weak.

Incarceron itself is self-aware, and seems to be more than a little insane. Its inhabitants live nasty brutish lives, although some seem to have scraped out some semblance of a workable society - but we don't get to see them much. More time is spent with the lowest of the low, the most brutal gangs on the inside. Finn has visions, and is convinced he was born outside the prison, although that is supposed to be impossible. (Although escaping is too, and there are myths of the one man who managed to do so.)

On the outside, the daughter of the Warden, Claudia, is about to be forced into a marriage she would much rather avoid, and she schemes to stymie the whole affair. The two start to communicate through strange devices, and the question of what Incarceron actually is, and where it is located, start to overshadow everything else.

This isn't bad. It isn't fantastic, but it's trying something, and though there are bits that fell a bit flat, I respect the attempt, and the story was engaging enough to keep me reading.