The Enclave – A Review


Today is a first. The CSFF Blog Tour for Karen Hancock’s recent science fiction/suspense release, The Enclave is overlapping the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour. That’s a lot of people blogging about one book today. 😀

Already a number of CSFF’ers have put up thoughtful commentary. I suggest you check out the posts by Elizabeth Williams, specifically her overall reactions and her closer look at the science aspect of this speculative story. I also recommend Fred Warren’s posts (start with this first one). Don’t let his humor and light tone fool you into discounting his insightful views. And be sure to read Karen’s latest commentary about The Enclave. You can find a complete list of the CSFF’ers participating in the tour here.

The Story. A research scientist, once discredited for his work with cloning, but now rich and famous, has constructed an institution in Arizona to examine longevity. Two of his new hires are Christians, one committed to his faith, the other struggling with doubts.

In another story thread, a young man living in a closed community—an enclave—revering the leader they know as Father, begins to suspect that not everything he’s been told and believed all his life is true.

Strengths. Karen Hancock’s writing is strong, borne out by the four Christy Awards she won for her first four novels. She creates scenes that transport readers into new places and has done so again in The Enclave. She describes characters in such a way they seem convincingly believable.

In addition, The Enclave introduces topics that Christians would do well to think about. The issue of cloning is at the forefront. What better way to explore the ethics of this kind of scientific “advancement” than through fiction?

Of equal importance is the exposure of the means and purposes of an anti-christ—a leader who knowingly takes the place of God before his followers.

In addition to these important topics, The Enclave has strong faith elements. A scientist who is a Christian believing in creation, not evolution; holding to the sanctity of life; willing to put himself in uncomfortable, even dangerous places because he believes God has called him to the task. In addition there is an interesting tangent that shows the power of God’s word.

In fact, my favorite part of the book is when the character Zowan, a member of the Enclave, struggles to understand the bits of the Bible he has found. The few pages he rescued from burning have the subtitle Key Study, and this is what he calls the book. He also, for the most part, thinks of God as I Am, since that’s the name He gave to Moses. Here’s some of that portion of the story:

Some of [Zowan’s] intensity was born out of his frustration at not having the entire book. His fragment ended midsentence in chapter twelve, yet its words and stories had only sparked more questions. What kind of book was this? Why had it been designated for burning? Who was this Lord God who was said to have created the world and man and placed him in it? Was He real, or just a character in a story? The pages implied He was real. And deep in his heart Zowan thought they might be right.

Moreover, if this Lord God was real … he might still exist. In the stories He spoke personally with the men who served Him—Adam, Noah, and Abram. Might He still speak with those who served Him? He wondered, too, why no one in the Enclave had ever mentioned Him or the Key Study story, seeing as how New Eden bore the same name as the garden God had made in the first chapter of Genesis. Surely whoever had given New Eden its name had known of the book ….

Other strengths. The story was fast paced and engaging. I was thoroughly entertained and looked forward to reading the book every chance I could get. The plot was anything but simplistic. But that leads to the other side of the ledger.

Weaknesses. My main “complaint” was that the story went too fast in the end. I felt that the plot was sufficiently dense to require another two hundred or more pages, maybe even another book.

Lots of new ideas came to light towards the end—what happened to the missing girls, what were in the hidden boxes, how the enclave came into being, what was behind the protagonist’s post traumatic stress flashbacks—but these new threads and some of the old ones seemed to receive a hurried pass rather than full development.

Recommendation. If the first four hundred pages were book one of a series, I would be jumping out of my skin—enthused by the story, eager for the second half. But that “second half,” including a hurried conversion under less than believable circumstances (would Zowan really be fixated on his questions about the Key Study when he’d just discovered his whole life had been a lie and he was in danger of capture and death?) seemed too compressed. And still, I highly recommend The Enclave. Anyone who misses it will be the poorer. The topics it introduces are important, the faith it shows is encouraging. And besides, the story is just plain fun to read.

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