Review: Incarceron

Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of Catherine Fisher’s sci-fi, dystopian, mildly steam-punkish novel is a good one. In the world outside, time has been frozen so that everyone has to follow Protocol which means living in a vaguely medieval time where most people are delegated to serfdom and a select few make up the rich gentry. The world inside, enclosed in a self-aware prison called Incarceron, is a bleak one where no one gets in, no one gets out, and men band together into thieving, murdering groups against each other.

I was incredibly fascinated by the idea of Incarceron. It was developed as a way to handle criminals, murders, and all of the scum of society. Wise men devised a self-aware world that should have been a paradise, where health care was free, food plenty, and everything self-sustaining. By some unexplained twist of fate, Incarceron changed from that idealized world into the scary, nightmarish world of the book’s prison.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the book is about. The book is about a privileged, spoiled girl who learns of the prison and a certain boy trapped inside of it. It’s about her mission to free him from somewhere that supposedly no one escapes from. On paper, this sounds like a grand adventure, but it was hard for me to care for the main characters. Of course, I wanted the boy to escape Incarceron, but as the book went along, I began to wonder if the outside world was any better than the world inside the prison.

The novel’s a strange mix of fantasy and science fiction that it’s worth reading just for that. Fisher builds such strange worlds that it makes me sad to think of how good the book could have been if only her characters were just as fleshed out. Incarceron has a few “whoaaa…” moments, but towards the end, even though it was supposed to be a cliffhanger, I just didn’t care enough to even read the jacket copy of the next book in the series.

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Review: The Time Machine

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short and sweet. Sometimes, that’s just what I need. Fresh off my latest Steampunk Month read, Boneshaker (2/5 stars), I wanted to read an older, classic steampunk book. After a browse through a list of steampunk books on Goodreads, I came upon The Time Machine and thought, why not?

The book, barely spanning over 100 pages, is about a man who builds a time machine, travels to the far, far, future (it’s the year 820701 or something) and meets what he believes will be the descendants of man. This all sounds very been there, done that, but the amazing thing of The Time Machine is that it was written in the 1800’s!

No, this isn’t a review about how the book was great for its time. It’s great even now. The Time Machine starts off with some gentlemen discussing ideas and theories in some guy’s parlor. There’s some basic exposition about fourth dimension mathematics, which will be easy to follow for anyone who’s taken basic geometry. That, I think is the brilliance of The Time Machine. It has vaguely scientific explanations of how time traveling works, but it’s not bogged down with the technical difficulties. Instead, it dives right into the mysterious world of the future.

The only disappointing thing I can say about The Time Machine, and this is entirely my fault, is that it’s not very steampunk. Other than the time traveling device, which I guess could be vaguely steampunk in that it has mechanical components, there’s not any steampunk at all. Luckily, that didn’t deter me from finishing the book. It would be a shame to not finish the story and hear what the Time Traveler had to say.

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Review: Barrayar

Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga, #2)Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someone said that this book was a lot better than Shards of Honor. I thought it was much worse. The first half of the book was pure political drama setting up for the action-packed last quarter of the book. Unfortunately, because of the way the author chose to name all of the lords and lordlings, things get very confusing.

My main beef with Barrayar was personality changes that both Vorkosigan and Cordelia went through. Cordelia in the first book was a strong-willed, clever woman who wasn’t hung up on gender roles. Cordelia in this book was a whiney, stubborn woman who’s only goal was to first have a son, and then later, to save this unborn son, even at the cost of her close friends, lots of death, and extended political turmoil.

Vorkosigan in this book turned into some no-direction, one-dimensional character that seemed to be hiding in the late emperor’s shadow. Maybe that’s what the author was trying to convey, but I rather liked him in Shards of Honor, and was just annoyed with him in this book.

To make up for my dislike of the two main characters, I found myself gravitating to the supporting cast this time. Koudelka and Drou’s attempt at flirting was entertaining and I was relieved when they finally found a way to resolve their relationship.

I’m still torn about the Bothari character. The author takes great pains to point that he’s mentally unstable. Funny how he always manages to find his stability to save the day in any situation that requires brawn. In fact, it’s annoying how Cordelia *always* succeeds. There’s just no tension at all because she always gets what she wants.

Perhaps I’m cold and I have no mothering instinct at all, but I was annoyed at Cordelia’s reaction to the whole baby situation. She was willing to cause more political strife to try and save one unborn life. It seemed incredibly selfish to me, and I was hoping Cordelia was beyond that. Because of my annoyance of the central plot, I was disengaged from the entire book. Not sure if I want to read the rest now. I guess I should at least give the actual Miles books a try.

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