Incarceron was meant to be paradise. The metal prison was expected to be a perfect world. But the technological prison grew self-aware and enjoyed torturing the people inside. Resources began to dwindle, prisoners became fractured and divided, creating vicious gangs that attacked and stole. No one from Outside Incarceron can get Inside, and no one from Inside can get Outside. If there even is an Outside. After centuries in the prison, no one is sure. But there are rumors that one man has Escaped.
Finn wakes up in the cell of Incarceron with no memory of his life before, save for an occasion flash that makes him certain that he was born Outside. He’s taken in by the Scum Gang but he’s determined to Escape and when he finds a Key, he is sure there is a way.
Claudia has lived a pampered, luxurious life but things aren’t always as they appear. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Only he knows where the prison is and only he watches over it. He is cold and distant and has taught his daughter well how to play the game of politics. It has been arranged for her to marry the King to be, which used to be the king’s son who dies (under mysterious circumstances) and is replaced by the king’s spoiled stepson. She has no desire to marry the arrogant man and desires nothing more than the escape her life and the world of Protocol, which requires that everyone live according to ancient, pre-technology lifestyles. When Claudia gets her hands on a key, she thinks she has found a way to the hidden prison.
There’s a lot happening in this story, sometimes too much, but certainly enough to keep you interested. Finn is a very likable and interesting character, Claudia is okay too, though not as much fun. I found myself a little torn. The in-Incarceron part of the story is so interesting and different, it’s a whole new set of rules and world. The adventure is scary and exciting and you can’t help but sit at the edge of your seat. The outside-Incarceron parts of the book are a little less interesting in part because Claudia comes off a little spoiled, even as she tries not to be. It’s a lot slower, the danger less present.
Each chapter begins with a quote or excerpt from an imagined text that was relevant to the story. Sometimes it talks about Sapphique the man who supposedly Escaped. Other times it’s a letter from the Queen to the Warden, detailing a plot that involves Claudia and the future of the kingdom. This is one of the parts that while interesting, is a little too much to take in. There’s a lot of plotting and scheming and while the story is interesting it is a little hard to follow everything.
Ultimately, I find the end of Book 1 unsatisfying but am interested enough to check out book 2.