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Book Review: Enclave by Kit Reed

# Dystopian Fiction, Satire
# Hardcover: 368 pages
# Publisher: Tor Books
# Publication Date: February 3, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0765321610
# ISBN-13: 978-0765321619
# Author Website

Enclave, by acclaimed author Kit Reed, is equal parts The Shining, Animal Farm, Outbreak, The Name of the Rose, and Harry Potter. Mixing and matching different elements from each of these tales, Reed comes up with a novel that is not original, but is highly entertaining.

Mr. Sargent, a former US Marine, believes he has a concept that can save the world from the cultural onslaught that is corrupting its children. Like monks of old, he will take the children of the wealthy, powerful, and famous – so young and yet already suffering from legal, drug, and being famous problems – and take them away from all cultural contact. Creating the Academy high on a secluded mountain, Sarge, his staff, and his lady love take 100 of the most famous and worst-behaved children society has to offer, places them into a contained situation with no technology, and then bombards them will images of destruction he claims is wreaking havoc on the world outside.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster doesn’t it?

Though billed as an apocalyptic novel, Enclave is really more about the effect of seclusion on the human psyche. Reed emphasizes this point by writing several of the chapters from the perspective of the characters in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Interspersing these with standard third-person narration chapters, Reed dives deep into the psychological effect of the enclave, without tiring the reader out mentally. We see the story from the perspective of Sarge, the school’s physician’s assistant, and several of the children. Sylvie is a sex-crazed teenager looking for true love, “Killer” Stade is hacker looking for his next computer fix, physician’s assistant Cassie wants Sarge to love her, Sage wants control, and monastery-raised Benny wants his solitude back.

As the story unfolds, each of these characters reacts in different ways. Some see it as an opportunity to gain power, some fall to pieces, and others become heroes. Ultimately, each becomes something wholly different from what they were when they entered the community, and all the vices and petty problems of the inmates and jailers become heightened. Reed is especially adept at writing the mindset of the children, kids who had been removed from everything they thought they loved and enjoyed.

Enclave moves quickly, never lacking for pace. I read it rapidly, eager to go back and see what trouble this enclosed community would get into next. Though I do not think the plot is especially original, Reed has a way of writing that sucks you in, investing you in what is going on, such that you don’t want to put the book down.

The story, by its end, is a tad unsatisfying. Even though Reed includes an epilogue, even that fails to really conclude the story. Or rather, Reed does not provide a satisfactory ending to the lives described in the story and so the reader is left feeling bereft. I think perhaps Reed’s intent is to let the characters stand on their own, to explore their natures without drawing conclusions. If that is the case, this story does that well, providing enough and varied situations in which to see these people. Not a one comes out of the Academy quite the same as they came in.

The language in the book is candid, and swearing appears, so readers who dislike that element will want to avoid it. However, Reed does use it effectively, not going overboard, simply establishing characters with it.

Enclave has the sinister feel of a Stephen King psychological horror tale. When this is added to a situation straight out of Outbreak the tale becomes downright chilling. Add on top of that a mystery like to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and a rebellion with echoes of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and you end up with a novel that will make the reader run through a gamut of emotions. It is a good book, though I would have liked a more satisfactory ending. But perhaps that is the point, because even now, days later, I keep thinking about Enclave and going “what if?”.

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