Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Incarceron is a massive prison designed to be a paradise for its inmates, a fully automated world unto itself. However, years after it was sealed, the prison has decayed and become a place of rampant poverty and violent gangs. Most inmate believe there is no world outside Incarceron; however, one prisoner, Finn, has strange memories and is convinced he came from outside. His suspicions seem confirmed when he comes into possession of a strange key that allows him to communicate with another world.

At the other end of the key is Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron’s warden, who is being forced into an unwanted marriage with the Queen’s son. She is horrified by the true conditions of the prison, and is determined to help Finn escape from the prison. Claudia has also come to suspect a royal conspiracy involving the lost prince, Giles, and believes Finn may also be an escape from her arranged marriage.

Catherine Fisher has created two truly fascinating worlds, that of Incarceron itself and the Realm outside. The prison itself is massive, containing not only cells but towns, cities, strange metal forests, and mountains. Claudia’s world is that of a future society forced by law to live as if in the 17th or 18th century; almost magical technology is hidden behind an unchanging facade of antiquity.

The story is largely plot driven, alternating at first between the stories of Finn and Claudia with the two stories eventually merging. Although some characters seem under developed, save for the two leads, the mysteries of the novel are more than enough to hold interest. The book is extremely thought provoking as well, raising questions about the implications of locking away all of society’s undesirables in an artificial “paradise”, or the forced stagnation of society.