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.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Enclave, Day 2

csffbuttonHave I mentioned recently how much I love CSFF blog tours? We really do have a wonderful group of bloggers writing about some of the newest and best Christian speculative literature. This month the tour is featuring The Enclave by Karen Hancock, and we’ve already had a good number of articles. (For a list, with links to specific articles, see CSFF Blog Tour–The Enclave by Karen Hancock.)

If you’d like to read an excellent summary/set up so you know what the book is about without having the ending spoiled, I suggest going to Valerie Comer’s first tour post. For a wonderful interview with Karen, visit Jason Joyner’s blog. By the way, Jason is one of perhaps a dozen participants (along with Rachel Starr Thomson, new CSFF member Dona Watson, Julie, Katie Hart and others) who are giving away a copy of The Enclave. Also, don’t miss Karen’s blog in which she is answering questions put to her by her publisher in preparation for the book release.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Enclave these last few days, as you would expect. Of course I’ll write a review—that’s sort of a given—but what else? There’s so much here. The book touches on the issue of cloning, but with equal power, the issue of religious cults and idolizing a leader.

But this morning I was listening to an Alistair Begg sermon in which he said something I’d never heard before. Faith, rather than serving as a crutch, often puts a believer into hard circumstances a non-believer will never experience.

And that, I realized, was a critical element in The Enclave. You see, this novel is quite different from Karen’s others. Rather than having an other world setting, the story takes place here. Consequently, characters aren’t introduced to God allegorically or metaphorically, but they are or are not believers in Jesus Christ.

Since this is science fiction, the story takes place primarily in a scientific research center, where most of the scientists scoff at faith, even as they try to play god by manipulating the human genome.

The protagonists, however, are both Christians—one a committed believer, one drifting. Both have their faith tested. Both must make decisions about what they will or won’t do, and their faith, rather than simplifying their choices, muddies the water.

They can go with the majority, renounce their beliefs, equivocate, even lie, and gain status, honor, advancement. Or they can hold to their faith and be discredited, mocked, black-balled.

How like the real world. Some of the pressure the characters faced was “friendly fire.” They were charmed, flattered, and promised the things they longed for, by people of prominence.

Their faith? Far from being a crutch, it was in the way. If God is who He says He is, a clash with the way the world works is inevitable. And The Enclave didn’t shy away from showing this clash in a memorable way.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Enclave by Karen Hancock

When I think of Karen Hancock (pictured here, circa 1960), author of this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Enclave, I think of “groundbreaking” … and envy.

Yeah, OK, for whatever reason, I’ve been doing a lot of True Confessions of late. Here’s the story. As far back as 1991 I finished book one of a fantasy series. Though it caught the attention of the director of a local writers’ institute and ended up at the pub board of a noted Christian publisher, they rejected it.

So years passed. I picked up a hobby—painting in watercolors—and continued to dabble in writing. Until the day God opened an opportunity for me to approach my writing seriously.

As part of that endeavor, I attended a different, smaller, local writers’ conference where an enthusiastic conferee pulled out a copy of a book entitled Light of Eidon, a Christian fantasy by an author and watercolor artist named Karen Hancock.

And here’s the confession. She’s living the life I want, I thought. Publishing books, selling paintings! I want to do that. YIKES! That’s hard to put out there for public consumption. That’s pretty much the definition of envy, I think.

So here’s one of the important things I’ve learned, and I have Karen to thank in part, though of course she has no way of knowing it: God uses the process of writing fiction and the way the book business works to refine my character. Big news flash, right? 😀

I’ve had to learn the envy lesson and many others along this writing journey (patience, trust, humility, kindness, any number of things). God is faithful. He uses the very things He calls us to, to teach us more of Himself.

But what’s the “groundbreaking” part? Karen has stepped out time and again to do something risky as far as the Christian publishing industry is concerned. Her first published work, Arena, was a fairly straightforward science-fantasy allegory of the Christian life … something that hadn’t been done since, oh, I don’t know, Pilgrim’s Progress?

I had no idea at the time what an anomaly it was for a Christian publisher to do such a risky thing as dip into fantasy. 😉 But there was more ground to break.

Karen began a true fantasy, the epic Legends of the Guardian King series. The story had a male protagonist, too, which supposedly Christian publishers frown upon. And after book one, which worked well as a stand-alone, the series morphed into one epic tale (much as the Harry Potter series did). Wonderfully, Karen’s work has been well received. In fact, as far as I know, she is the only person who has won four Christy Awards.

But back to “groundbreaking.” In this day when authors are expected to get out and plug their books, Karen maintains a blog and website, but does no speaking or book signings (that I know of) on principle. She wants to invest her time on the job God has given her—writing fiction.

Here’s another one. While any number of writers are turning out books every six months, Karen takes a year or two with her writing. Her care with craft shows.

Needless to say, I’m happy the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Enclave. As it happens the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance will also be touring it starting on Thursday. A whole week of book buzz!

By the way, a number of CSFF bloggers will be giving away copies of The Enclave, so you’ll want to visit the other participants on the tour:

This list was updated Thursday morning, July 23. Click on a check mark to go directly to the post.

And check out what Karen Hancock is saying in connection with the tour.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 11:24 am  Comments (16)  
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