About Me

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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Incarceron/Sapphique - Catherine Fisher

I read the first volume on a business trip (to exhibit at the International Reading Association Convention, no less), and fell instantly into the world Fisher creates. When I got back, I bought the second volume on the way home from the airport. I finished it the day after my Florida flu fever broke.

Part of what held my attention so thoroughly was the mysterious nature of the world itself. The central question of the book is, really, its setting. All the previews will tell you that Incarceron is a prison world, and the main characters are a prisoner and the Warden's daughter. This is good enough to get going, but the way Fisher repeatedly trips up the reader, with possible red herrings and genuine deceptions, keeps the story building tension even though the action could hardly have started sooner.

I felt the resolution fell short, however, and it's a bit of my sci-fi>fantasy prejudice showing through. I like to know, at the end, what happened, and to have reasons and causal relationships. Much of fantasy relies on the unknowable (exception: the highly rational and organized magic of the Harry Potter universe), whereas at least some science fiction relies on rational, if not naturalistic, explanations. 

For those not burdened with my predilections (and are they even reasonable?), this short series is a detailed tapestry of interwoven narratives (talk about omniscient perspective head-hopping...but it works!), glimpses of imagined sacred texts and histories, and a deep, changing, meaningful world for deep, changing, and meaningful characters to inhabit.

Maybe my reservation of praise over the plot resolution has to do with the fact that I've rewritten my own first chapter (again) based on the experience of the first volume alone. Totally unfair of me. These are great fantasy.