I remember coming across this book a year or so ago at a local bookstore and not being really interested in it but was interested enough to check it out of the library when I saw it this summer (I was puzzled however by the author's name, I had gotten it into my head that this was Cornelia Funke's latest book so I was a bit puzzled). Funny enough, I was actually reading the first part of this book at the same time another person on twitter was and we exchanged a few emails with theories on the book (I had a crazy one that wasn't right, she had one that I had also noticed, we agreed it was too obvious, that was right, even as much as the story later tried to make it ambiguous) and it was funny to see someone, who until then I thought had fairly different readings tastes than mine, feel exactly the same way about the whole first part of the book.
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Interesting choice in font, I'm surprised I haven't seen any steampunk books or websites using it since it really evokes the feeling of clogs and clocks. And, considering what's on the rest of the cover, it all fits very well. It was nice to have the key from the book on the cover since, even though it's described so often, it's nice to have a visual to see what it really looks like.
Summary: It may be the future but the world is stuck in the past, trapped by traditions enacted after the world nearly destroyed itself but the protocol that binds Claudia doesn't seem to be doing her any good either. And her's isn't the only messed up part of the world, Finn lives in the great prison Incarceron, initially created as a place to nurture and provide for every need of thousands and thousands of people but instead is a living hell for all it's inhabitants. Finn wants out and Claudia wants out of her arranged marriage with the crown prince and in the process discovers an interesting link to the mythical prison.
The Good: Claudia turned out to be a much more interesting protagonist than I expected and was a very nice mix of clever, curious and yet not too impulsive, the kind of character who goes out and does things but not the kind of things where you want to yell at them for being an idiot. Also, even though this book is part of a duology, most of the plot threads are wrapped up at the end of this book so it feels very complete which is very nice. That's not to say that there aren't a few sequel hooks, some of them rather large ones, but if the book wasn't quite working for you (like it was for me at points) then it's easy to feel satisfied and stop reading at this point.
The Bad: I mentioned earlier that both FelicityDisco and I both figured out a fairly major plot point within the first hundred pages of the book and, since the book tried to make it ambiguous for the next 300 or so pages, that's not a good sign. It's entirely possible that the second book will prove that we were actually wrong but still, I like books with plots so it's annoying to read one where it uses such an obvious trope that I can figure it out so early on. What bothered me more however was how the logistics of Incarceron worked, from minor ones (where does such a large place get enough power to work?) to more major ones (people being born with machine parts in them because "the prison recycles everything" except they were conceived, erm, in the normal way, ie one that doesn't require outside sources). There were other things about the setting that bothered me as well* but this detail cropped up so often that it bothered me throughout the entire book.
Sorry for the delay, busy afternoon and night for me, wasn't expecting certain things (coughbusescough) to take up so much of my time (and I have yet another head cold which always makes writing slightly tricky). Tomorrow's review should be up at a more reasonable time tomorrow and, as normal, I plan on glancing over this when I'm more awake, hope there's nothing major I need to correct....
*I suppose this would actually count as a lying protagonist except it's by accident, having a character who has never seen the real world be the point of view usually means that things get described differently than how someone with a regular worldview would (a good example is The City of Ember) always bugs the hell out of me.