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Literature: Incarceron

Incarceron is a Science Fiction (with the feel of, and marketed as Fantasy) duology by Catherine Fisher. It tells the story of the prison complex known as Incarceron. Incarceron is infinite, inescapable, and to top it off, it's a malevolent sentient being hell-bent on forever confining the thousands of inmates inside it. No one enters, no one escapes except one boy. Finn is a troubled inmate with vague memories of another life outside the prison.

During a struggle within the prison, Finn finds a crystal key, which he and many others believe may be the key to Incarceron. He soon discovers that the key has another purpose; through the key, which turns out to function as a communication device, he meets a girl named Claudia. Claudia claims to live Outside Incarceron, but is doomed to an arranged marriage. With help from Claudia and from visions of the legendary Sapphique, Finn is determined to unlock the mysteries of his past and perhaps escape from Incarceron.

The sequel and conclusion, Sapphique, reveals greater problems now that Finn has Escaped and is challenged as crown prince by a remarkably similar boy.

These books provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: Attia.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Incarceeron started out okay, but went horribly wrong. In the end he's calmed via Jared.
  • The Alcatraz: Since the creation of Incarceron, only Sapphique has escaped, although the Warden may come and go as he pleases.
  • Alien Sky: A few of Incarceron's wings have these.
  • Anti-Hero: Finn and Keiro.
  • Bad Future: The Reveal near the end of Book 1.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Keiro and Attia.
  • Big Bad: Queen Sia.
  • Bigger Bad: While Queen Sia is the main threat in the Realm, the true evil is Incarceron.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Incarceron is calmed down and the masquerade has been broken, but some characters are dead and the Outside is reduced to a wasteland.
  • Body Horror:
    • The Half-Men are people who have been "repaired" by Incarceron with robotic components.
    • Chain-gangs are groups of people fused together and sharing a consciousness. They assimilate their victims.
  • Briar Patching: One of the tales of Sapphique involves him facing off against a giant mechanical wolf that threatens him with many deadly fates, but Sapphique begs above all else, not to be thrown into the lake. Of course, when he is thrown into the lake, he swims to safety.
  • Breaking Speech: Incarceron is very proficient at this.
  • Chess Motifs: Barely noticeable in the first book, but emphasized more in Sapphique.
  • Comm Links: One of the properties of the keys.
  • Cosmic Plaything: The prisoners.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Sapphique, who is said to have been the only known escapee, is worshiped as a god, and is sometimes called "The Nine-Fingered One" by his followers. He gained this nickname as the result of losing one of his fingers to a beast within the Prison.
  • Driven to Suicide: Evian when his assassination attempt fails.
  • Dystopia: Incarceron became one when men lost control over it.
    • Outside could also be considered one, with the way Protocol keeps everyone in an enforced Era.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The characters have to go through a lot, but the books end with things much better than at the start.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Incarceron itself is pretty much this, albeit created by man.
  • Evil Twin: The fake Giles (the Pretender).
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Claudia's father, the Warden of Incarceron, has raised her to succeed him and become the ruler of the Realm.
  • Genius Loci: Incarceron.
  • Gilded Cage: The Realm at first looks like a perfect place (for the rich at least), but it's actually ruled by a tyrannical elite who enforces Protocol. Just like in Incarceron, people are not free.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Sia is the Big Bad, and oppresses her people.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Incarceron.
  • Good All Along: Lord Evian, though "good" may be a speculative term.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Keiro is a callous Combat Pragmatist that everyone but Finn seems to assume will betray them the second it's convenient for him, but he honors his bond with Finn and saves him and Attia several times throughout the books.
  • Grand Theft Me: A heroic example; Jared puts on Sapphique's glove and enters the body Incarceron was trying to use.
  • Great Escape
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Before he was put into Incarceron, Finn was a gentle prince. His time in Incarceron changed him a lot, as lampshaded by many.
  • Handicapped Badass: Jared's sickness tacks an "invalid" label on him that most everyone agrees upon. It doesn't make him any less of a badass.
  • Hellhole Prison: Incarceron treats its prisoners as playthings to manipulate for its own enjoyment.
  • I Just Want To Be Human: Incarceron's goal in Sapphique.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Jared.
  • It Was with You All Along: Claudia had been looking for an entrance to the Prison behind the gate, but found nothing. Only later is it revealed that the Warden keeps it as a charm on his watch.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Keiro.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Finn. He can't remember his childhood, but recalls vague bits from his past.
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: A creation of Jared's.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted. Claudia is revealed to not be the Warden's daughter; she was born in Incarceron.
  • MacGuffin: The keys.
    • Sapphique's glove in the sequel.
  • Made of Iron: A bit literally for Half-Men and Keiro.
  • Medieval Stasis: A collection of laws, simply known as Protocol, forbid progress in the outside world (although the Era they are trying to emulate is more like the Renaissance or later than the Middle Ages).
  • Mouse World: Incarceron is contained within a cube that the Warden wears, and people enter it by crossing some kind of time-space barrier.
  • Patchwork Map: Incarceron's wings are varied in climate and what's inside them.
  • Polluted Wasteland: Several landscapes inside the prison, and what the Outside really is.
  • Prince Charmless: Caspar.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Incarceron's eyes are red.
  • Satisfied Street Rat: Keiro oozes this.
  • Scavenger World: Both inside and outside the prison.
  • Science Fantasy: The novel has both fantasy and sci-fi elements.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Sapphique.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Claudia
  • Sinister Surveillance: Incarceron's Eyes.
  • Split Personality Merge: While they were originally separate, at the end Jared's gentle personality is placed within Incarceron's, calming him.
  • Super Intelligent: The Sapients, who created Incarceron and now hold all the advanced knowledge of the past before Era.
  • The Stoic: Playing the nobility game Outside means being this all the time. The Warden is a master in hiding his emotions, and Claudia has learned from him (but she is less stoic when with Jared).
  • The Wall Around the World: Near the end of the first book, Finn and gang fly a silver airship into the hole of what seems to be this. Whether or not it actually was is debatable.
  • Tough Love: Although John Arlex is hard on Claudia and has essentially raised her to become the perfect Queen, he eventually admits that he grew to love her as a true daughter.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Finn had this.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Everyone underestimates Jared.
  • The Unmasqued World: At the end of Sapphique, the holograms and everything that kept the nobility in power are broken, and the people can see what the world really looks like.
  • Weather Control Machine: Incarceron controls its own climate, able to make the temperature unbearably hot or freezing cold.
  • Well Intentioned Extremists: The Steel Wolves.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Let's face it, a sentient prison is not a good idea. Especially if there is no way out whatsoever.
  • You Are What You Hate: Keiro hates the Half-Men, people with mechanical limbs that were either born with them or "fixed" by Incarceron. It later turns out that Keiro himself is a Half-Man, and one of the reasons he hates them so much is because he was born with it and he's not sure how far the mechanical parts go.

ImpulseYoung Adult LiteratureThe Incarnate Trilogy
The Impossible StairwellScience Fiction LiteratureIn Death
ImpulseLiterature of the 2000sIncompetence
IndigoFantasy LiteratureIncarnations of Immortality

alternative title(s): Incarceron
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