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*Starred Review* The vast prison Incarceron, made of metal and cutting-edge technology, was designed as a grand experiment: all undesirables would be sealed inside and given everything for a model utopia. But the experiment failed as Incarceron grew self-aware and tyrannical, resources dwindled, and prisoners divided into factions. Centuries later, prisoners exist under Incarceron's watchful eyes with one belief: no one from Outside enters, no one from Inside escapes. Finn, however, believes he's from Outside, and after he finds a crystal key that opens any door, he embarks on a journey to escape. Outside Incarceron, Claudia, the warden's daughter, is also looking for escape, from an arranged marriage and from her role in a plot to end Protocol, which forces inhabitants to live according to seventeenth-century norms. When she too finds a crystal key, she comes into communication with Finn, who she believes is the true prince of the Realm. This gripping futuristic fantasy has breathless pacing, an intelligent story line, and superb detail in rendering both of the stagnating environments. Fisher's characters are emotionally resonant, flawed, determined, and plagued by metaphysical questions. With some well-timed shocking twists and a killer ending, this is a must-have.--Hutley, Krista Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Gr 7 Up-Finn is a denizen of Incarceron, a sentient prison in which generations of inmates struggle and fight for survival. Finn, however, is certain he comes from somewhere else. A strange tattoo and vague memories have convinced him that he comes from Outside. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Technology has been outlawed and society returned to a feudal time replete with rules, including arranged marriages. When the Queen and Claudia's father conspire to have her impending marriage to the heir moved forward, Claudia vows to do whatever it takes to avoid her fate. Finn and Claudia both acquire mysterious crystal keys that allow them to communicate, and it begins to be clear that each may be the other's way out. On the surface, Incarceron is a fast-paced if dense adventure that pits Finn against the prison and his fellow prisoners and Claudia against her father, her fiance, and her society. If that were all, it would be a truly excellent fantasy novel. By delving into the philosophy of imprisonment and the development of society; discussing how history informs the present; and exploring self-awareness and sentience in nonhuman characters, Incarceron becomes something of a tour de force. The history of both Incarceron and Era are explored through excerpts from imagined legends and archival documents at the start of each chapter. The novel's length and complex plot may be daunting to some, but fans of steampunk and epic fantasy alike will be anxiously flipping pages and awaiting the sequel, already released in the U.K.-Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Fisher (the Oracle Prophesies series) scores a resounding success in this beautifully imagined science fantasy set in a far future where, many years earlier, civilization was artificially frozen at late-medieval levels in order to save the world from dangerous technologies. Simultaneously, all of the world's malcontents and madmen were sealed into an unimaginably vast, sentient prison named Incarceron, where a dedicated group of social engineers intended to create utopia. Claudia, the brilliant daughter of the cold-blooded warden of Incarceron, has been raised from birth to marry and eventually control Caspar, the simpleminded heir to the throne. Finn, a young man without a past, is a prisoner in Incarceron, which has become a hideous dystopia, an "abyss that swallows dreams." When Claudia and Finn each gain possession of a high-tech "key" to the prison, they exchange messages, and Finn asks Claudia to help him attempt an escape. While he negotiates the hideous maze of the prison, Claudia makes her way through the equally deadly labyrinth of political intrigue. Complex and inventive, with numerous and rewarding mysteries, this tale is certain to please. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved