Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Pablo Picasso is considered one of the world’s great art masters. He is known for a style of painting called cubism. A cubist painting looks like a canvas that has been cut up into pieces and then reassembled so that each piece appears to crash into the others in bizarre angles. Time, space and reality receive a distorted or bent look in a cubist painting. Maybe the intent of cubism is to shock our senses so we are forced to view reality from another perspective. Take a look at one of Picasso’s famous paintings titled Guernica: This painting doesn’t draw us in by how life-like the art is, but shouts at us with mishaped figures of agony. Look at the cut-out shape of the screaming horse. Notice the one dimensional person flailing his arms? I can almost imagine myself pressing a volume button to turn off the shrieks of pain.

Did you notice the eye? The eye especially disturbs me for some reason. The eye watches over everything. Like a video camera, it seems to record and capture all the horror and suffering of the scene below. Nothing escapes the eye’s gaze. I’m not surprised that the eye in the painting flashed to my mind as I encountered an equally unsettling orb in the book called, Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.

The Eye of Incarceron had studied Finn almost his entire life. Was the mind behind the eye merely artificial or was it alive? Could it prove to be more than a technological tool to monitor all inmates such as Finn? You could say Incarceron served as a high security prison of sorts, like an Alcatraz perhaps. Yet, to say Incarceron was merely a prison, doesn’t adequately describe the experience. Similar to a cubist painting, Incarceron seemed to defy space, time, and reality. How can a normal prison conceivably hold a billion prisoners and possibly guard them only with an electronic eye?

Over the years a cherished myth passed down from inmate to inmate. The myth told of a prisoner named Sapphique, the only one who had successfully escaped Incarceron. Like an inmate on Alcatraz, Finn desperately lived by the thread of hope that someday he too would again live free under the stars above.

Finn wasn’t extraordinarily tough or clever, but he had managed to survive the violence and horrors of confinement within Incarceron’s acrid chambers. Most inmates left Finn alone, not for the fact he was young, but because of his convulsions. Many of the inmates considered Finn special because of his disorder, like he was some kind of prophet or seer. Some even thought Finn had convulsions because Sapphique revealed the secrets of escape in those tormented episodes when his body shaked, flailed, and betrayed him. For these reasons his fellow inmates also kept a close eye on Finn. He just might be their ticket out.

Finn believed he hadn’t always been a prisoner of Incarceron, but that was impossible. Everyone currently alive in Incarceron had been born inside. Finn firmly believed he was different, the only one in the immense dungeon to have once lived free under the sky. Even those close to him doubted his claim, but Finn had proof. Unlike any other inmate, Finn’s arm bore the mark of an eagle clearly in the form of a red tattoo.

What did the tattoo symbolize? Did Finn really have visions that could lead the way out of Incarceron? If the Eye could see and record everything, how can Finn and the other inmates possibly escape? Is the prison like a Picasso painting, with so many distorted twists and turns that there is no way out? Will Finn and the others regret their attempt to defy the Eye of Incarceron?

If you like a hard edged fantasy adventure take a look at, Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.

You also might like:

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer or Compound by S.A. Bodeen

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