Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Posted On 1 May 2013

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Just finished reading Enclave by Ann Aguirre which I really enjoyed.  Enough in fact to finish this in virtually one sitting!

Enclave is a post apocalyptic novel set in a futuristic City where people now live in isolated groups.  The story is told by a 15/16 year old female called Deuce.  People have taken to living in the tunnels that once formed the travel network underneath the city.  These tunnels have now fallen into crumbling disrepair and as well as the small enclaves that have independently set up in different areas there are other strange and savage people who roam these tunnels looking for a different type of food – other people.  They are know as ‘the freaks’ or ‘eaters’ and seem to be the legacy of a plague which left few survivors untouched.  However, small groups of survivors have set up homes and live in these tunnels and this is where Deuce was born and raised.  The average life expectancy is not much above 20 and in fact 25 year olds are called Elders.  At the start of the novel Deuce has just undertaken her naming ceremony (the children – or brats – are not given a name until they reach the age of 15) and has been designated a huntress – a position which she has been striving towards for most of her young life.  The enclave can only exist following strict rules.  There is no unauthorised breeders.  In fact there are only three designations – builder, breeder and hunter/huntress.  The Elders keep people, and potential rebellion, in check by using the threat of banishment to ‘topside’ where the air is unbreathable and the acid rain will simply melt the flesh from a person’s bones.

It’s very easy to get a feel for the world straight away,  Dark, cramped, very few resources and the sort of harsh upbringing that hardens people to unnecessary sentimentality.  The strong survive and there is no room for the weak.  Existence means hard work, observance of the Elder’s code of living, not, ever, questioning the law of the Enclave and eking out survival in the most basic way.  There is no technology, no means of travel other than running through the tunnels, no machines, no electronics, no daylight, no means of growing anything.  The people survive off the animals they catch in the tunnels – i.e mainly rats.  However, if you’ve never known any different you would have nothing to compare this with and so to all intents and purposes Deuce passes for happy.  She has two friends, who she grew up with – Stone and Thimble, her dream to become marked as a huntress has now been fulfilled and life is peachy.  Until she’s paired with Fade.  Fade isn’t from the Enclave – he only joined a few years ago and claims to have lived topside – although nobody believes his claims.  From this point on Deuce’s life starts to take a different route.  She quickly falls out of favour with her superiors and is then put on a virtual suicide mission which involves herself and Fade trekking over to the next nearest enclave to check out suspected trouble with the Freaks.

It appears that the freaks are starting to evolve.  No longer just mindlessly stumbling through the tunnels craving meat they seem to be gathering and working together and Deuce and Fade pretty soon find themselves in some difficult situations.

Anyways, I’m not going to go much further into the plot as I don’t want to spoil what takes place.

In terms of criticisms.  Yes, I obviously had a few.  I probably would have liked to know what happened exactly  to create this world- but, Deuce doesn’t know and as the story is told from her POV she can’t tell us what she doesn’t know.  The majority of people live in a bubble of uncertainty.  Things about the past have been forgotten and any ‘relics’ are greatly treasured – particularly books or other snippets of information.  The survivors live so isolate from each other that ill formed theories and suppositions are the norm.  The only thing that is hinted at is some sort of disease or plague.  Also, this is YA – which may be enough to put some people off I guess, particularly as it does also contain the beginnings of a romance and the typical YA trap of a love triangle!  However, the romance isn’t really in your face and the love triangle is only sort of ‘suggested’ if you will.  I also had problems with things like, for example, how these people are managing to even grow, let alone survive, when their diet seems to consist of rats and mushrooms – not exactly a lot of varied nutrition going on right there – perhaps that’s why they are short lived?

Basically, though, my niggles didn’t put me off reading and although there are definite gaps in information they weren’t enough to become a real deal breaker.  I like the character Deuce – and also Fade for that matter.  We have a couple of other characters who join along the way, one who is rather (read very) unsavoury and I think this particular person may give some people pause for thought.  Particularly in the way that Deuce is able to allow him to join the group after his past misdemeanours.  But, I think because of the way she has lived she doesn’t carry the same sentiments as we do and recognises that people do what they think is necessary to survive.

So, in spite of my crticisms I really enjoyed this and have every intention of reading book 2.


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