Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Published April 12, 2011.

Deuce lives in an enclave, deep underground. Her friends are her family, her life revolves around training to become a Huntress, one of the elite cadres who protect the enclave.

Deuce is partnered with a mysterious Hunter named Fade, who is said to have lived in the surface world as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters - or Freaks - which seem to be growing more and more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade's long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they've ever know. (book back blurb)

It's reading books like this that make me wonder whether I'd be able to function in a post-apocalyptic group setting or not. I'm not one to follow blindly. Shit, I didn't understand why people followed Dumbledore so blindly let alone me myself doing it in a real life setting. So to see Deuce growing up under such indoctrination but seeing the cracks in the facade make it all the more realistic for me.

Deuce's disillusionment of her society doesn't happen instantly or unrealistically. She sees things that she knows aren't right. She comes back with information that's ignored and she's threatened in order to keep her mouth shut. Through the actions of the highest few she begins to see what's on the other side of the curtain and she's not liking this whole ruling by fear thing. The thing is they don't like her asking questions and since Fade wasn't one of them anyway, off they go! Have to keep order and all of that. Narrow-mindedness at its best.

Fade is the outcast so he's a natural contender for a love interest but when Stalker enters the picture, things get a little weird and Deuce gets a bit of Stockholm syndrome, just after the fact. That aspect of the love triangle I didn't get. I got to see Deuce's enclave mentality still kicking around, only the strong survive and all of that, but considering the humanity that's been shown in her, the fact that she would develop any kind of attraction to him is unsettling to me, especially considering what he did to her, and to Pearl. I'm not getting that.

I loved the world that Aguirre created in the tunnels. I could see and feel the darkness and the dank and the dirt. No one was really ever clean down there and that was prominent to me. I couldn't picture any of the characters, even after they bathed, looking clean. At least not our level of clean.

The Freaks reminded me of vampires a little bit, the underworld types that I've seen in the later Blade movies or 30 Days of Night. They're ravenous flesh eaters, not blood suckers, but just the pictures in my mind. They're nominally humanoid but not. And the fact that they evolve makes them more of a threat than just some hungry, feral beasts that need to be beaten back. And the notion that only the strong survive really comes into play. Is it strength to remain in the status quo or strength to shake the complacency for the sake of safety?

I liked how when they got up to the city that the sights remained in Deuce's eyes. The unknown was still the unknown and you could feel her uncertainty just when she was looking around. The sun was this beast that was hellbent on cooking her alive. That juxtaposition of such uneducated thought in an advanced being really adds complexity to the story. She's almost like a caveman that can have a coherent conversation. Although what kind of got to me was her language. The story was in first person but the language she was using I wouldn't think would come from someone that had been born underground with little education and had trained to be a fighter. She certainly had some flowery prose about her that was shocking.

But overall I really felt ENCLAVE. Not only the grime from the tunnels but I felt the characters as well. None of them were all that simple even though they may have looked it from the outside. Fade is far more than just the quiet fighter. Stalker is more than just the prick overlord of a gang of brats. Pearl is far from weak and Deuce shatters and rebuilds herself, breaking down her old beliefs for a completely different set. They're all products of their world. They've grown to adapt, blend in and survive and this is the result. They just have different ways of doing it and it's interesting watching them do it.

I'm looking forward to the next installment in the Razorland series. ENCLAVE ended at such a cut-off point that I was a little frustrated with it. It left a lot of questions unanswered and it was definitely a means to carry on to another book. But in this case that's okay. Because I really want to read it.

Ban Factor: High - A post-apocalyptic, godless world where kids go all Lord of the Flies on each other? Oh yeah. This one's getting the kibosh put on it.
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