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.

13 Comments

  1. Ahhh…what I’ve been waiting for…Becky’s initial take on the book! 🙂 It was highly entertaining.

    I’d love to know what you think about this theory of other “beings” – in this case the giants of Anack surviving the flood. Apparently a lot of people theorize on this, and I’ve always thought if the Bible was shy on details, well, it’s not our place to invent the details in between the gaps. That was my only real discomfort with the book…

    Other than the fact that it wasn’t as fictional as it seemed. THAT was kind of scary!

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  2. PS The book was highly entertaining…not your initial response! I need to proof my posts better!

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  3. “Two of his new hires are Christians, one committed to his faith, the other struggling with doubts.”

    It is interesting that you put it this way, as if these were two seperate and non-overlapping positions. It makes being committed seem a kind of blind activity, unwilling to tangle with genuine problems.

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  4. […] Miller, apparently the CSFF Blog Tour Overlord (who would have guessed?) finally unveiled her own review of  The Enclave, which I found quite […]

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  5. Hi, Ken. I was trying to give a brief overview of these characters, highlighting their spiritual maturity. My choice of words was deficient because there was no sort of cut and dried, this one has everything figured out and life is easy while this one is stumbling around in the dark doing everything wrong. For a close look at the Christian elements in the book, I suggest you read Elizabeth’s post on the subject. She does an excellent job.

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  6. Kim, I take a little different approach—sort of what I assume writers of Biblical fiction use. If the Bible is silent, we are free to imagine and to incorporate our ideas in our fiction.

    And actually the passage in Genesis 6 says the Nephilim were before the flood and afterward, so evidently they did survive. I believe elsewhere in Scripture Goliah is named as one of the descendant. It seems there is something we don’t know about the flood or about these beings.

    As some others have pointed out, these kinds of actual beings may have become the source of myth. I’ve wondered that about dragons. Satan took the form of the serpent before it was condemned to crawl on its belly. So what did that animal look like? And might not dragon stories all owe their origin to the serpent in the Garden of Eden?

    In that regard, all of creation stems from the Bible. I don’t think we could limit stories to things not in the Bible or things not clearly spelled out in the Bible, because that would mean we couldn’t write about contemporary life. No cell phones. 😆

    I only have problems with stories that tweak the Biblical account. I’m thinking of one Nephilim story that did this, and I have serious objections to that. The Biblical account should not be made to look inconsistent with the fiction.

    There’s my view on it.

    Becky

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  7. Gotcha, Becky! I must admit to staying in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to some of these topics. I just don’t want to add anything to Biblical truth in any form that might confuse someone or cause them to turn away. With the lies of evolution already damning so many to unbelief, I just steer clear of that I guess. Hence, it becomes uncomfortable to me in my reading.

    I’m still growing and learning when it comes to speculative fiction, thus The Enclave was a pleasant surprise.

    Thanks Becky for all you do!!

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  8. I checked our local christian bookseller for Enclave. They have 50 “on order”. So I guess I’ll have to wait to encounter it. Geography still rules.

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  9. Ken, you could always put in for one of the giveaway copies and hope the blogger is willing to sent to Australia. I sent a contest winner from the Philippines a book once, so you never know.

    Becky

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  10. Kim, maybe this is one of those “better safe than sorry” issues. I think it would be extremely hard to write about Biblical events or characters. I’d much rather borrow the concept and fictionalize it in a fantasy world. So if I ever do use Nephilim, probably no one will ever know. 😉

    Becky

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  11. I can see what you’re saying about pacing here Becky. After lending Enclave to my mom to read, she felt that Karen is a fabulous author, but everything was too rushed, the first half of the story-line would be enough for an entire novel, the second half was just crammed in there with inadequate development (her mini-review!).

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  12. Great stuff thanks for posting that. I find Im reading your posts more and more.

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  13. Jennifer, Karen mentioned something on her blog about being over her word count, so I suspect she was really trying to squeeze everything in there at the end. I suppose that’s the realities of publishing, but it really is too bad.

    Benjamin, thanks so much for stopping by. I’m happy to know you’re finding something that makes a return visit worthwhile.

    Becky

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