Published by Tor
February 2009, Hardcover
Utopia – a concept dating back most probably prior to the novel of the same name by Thomas More. An isolated society comprised mostly of children, in this case children of a troublesome variety, has also become a familiar motif, the most famous example of which can be considered Lord of the Flies. Golding’s novel works as a touchstone thematically for this novel in that respect. Both Enclave and Lord of the Flies are also haunted by the specter of an apocalypse.
Kit Reed takes those familiar concepts and injects a headstrong former Marine (known only as Sarge) as the de-facto headmaster, with a handful of other adults in various capacities – doctors, nurses, and security personnel. What unfolds is a solid page turner told in a very engaging and ticksey manner. Each chapter focus on a different character and for the most part, these rotating character chapters are in the first person point of view. Initially, some might find this unsettling, but conversely, I thought this was a neat narrative trick that put the reader in each of the character’s proverbial shoes, allowing for the reader’s empathy for the characters to grow as the narrative progresses.
As often happens in such Utopic settings, something shatters the sought-after idyllic setting. The monastery in which the novel takes place is supposed to be impregnable and unbreachable, which is why Sarge chose it for his boarding school. Sarge and his crew try to tell the children they are at the Academy for their own good, to save them from the pending apocalypse. These children are initially told the reason for their installment at this Academy is to further their education, when in reality all these kids have some sort of troubled past. As such, their parents want to get rid of them. "Killer" Stade got his nickname from killing a peer, another young man was sent to the Academy because his epileptic fits would be too embarrassing for his royal family to handle, while another child is sent because she/he is confused about his/her gender.
The set-up of the novel is constructed very well, with Reed revealing the characters very well as well as the thought-to-be impregnable Academy. The Academy is high on a mountain, cut off from the majority of technology, save for the fabricated news feeds Sarge gives the children and one IT staffer who keeps abreast of the real world. Once a monastery, one old holdover from the Monastery is kept as something of a guide to the newcomers and a religious mentor.
What unfolds between the covers of Enclave works effectively as both a coming of age tale for some of these children as well as a taut thriller. The concluding third of the novel was particularly well-constructed and made the novel difficult to put down. The novel captures kids a crossroads in their lives and how the struggle against what amounts to a deadly invasion. At times subtle and others harsh and uncompromising, Enclave is an engaging novel from Kit Reed.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford
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