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Enclave by Kit Reed
Review by Andrew Brooks
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765321619
Date: 03 February 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Tom Easton's Review of Enclave / Show Official Info /

If Enclave is anything like the rest of Kit Reed's books then she's got a new best fan. Her latest, the aforementioned Enclave, surprised and delighted this jaded reviewer in a way that hasn't been done since I first stumbled on to the works of Tim Powers. Two vastly different types of authors, I know, but both the kind of writers that know how to plug into the reader and wow them. I don't say this lightly. It's early in the year, yes, but henceforth all the books I read this year will be competing (in my head, at least) with this one. It's just that good.

The world is in turmoil: wars, global ecological and economical collapse, and plague. The four horsemen are riding around out there somewhere, and won't anyone think of the children? They will if the children's parents happen to be filthy rich and hoping to get rid, er, save their children from the end of the world. That's where Sarge comes in. A Marine Lt. Colonel, the self described Sarge, sets up the Clothos Academy in a former monastery in the Mediterranean with the promise that he will protect one hundred students from the end of the world. But is the world really ending?

That's one of the mysteries in Enclave, and not the only one Reed throws in the mix. There's also a strange man lurking about who harbors a nasty surprise for the Clothos Academy, as well as the simple yet enigmatic Benny-the sole surviving member of the former monastery where the school has been set up. While Benny and the stranger are good mystery fodder, the main question for students and teachers alike is whether or not the world really is ending. And it's how all the characters react to this that proves the most interesting.

Cut off from the outside world, with nary an Xbox or internet connection, the children are forced to rely on Sarge's say so on what is or is not happening outside the academy. Two boys, Terry and Killer Stade discover a different reality than the one piped in on the schools screens, but what is it? Is the world ending? Does Sarge have their best interest in mind? And why do I keep asking questions in this review? Because, at heart, Enclave is a pretty good mystery novel and those kinds of books ask questions. But it's also more than that. It's a study of both the students and their teachers, and of how humans react when they're cut off from the outside world.

There were times while reading Enclave that I kept thinking on another book about the breakdown of society, Lord of the Flies. Enclave may be a little similar, although it's the adults who re-enact the climactic moments of Lord of the Flies, but not enough so most would probably even think about the other book. They both do something quite well, though, and that's bring to life great characters while subtly asking the reader questions about our own world. The one outside the book.

I didn't much care for Sarge through the first few chapters, thought he was a pompous fundamentalist frankly. But Reed does such an excellent job of humanizing the strict leader of Clothos that I'd be surprised if a lot of readers don't get a little teary-eyed at novel's end. He cares about his charges, but hardly sees them for the blinders of duty and righteousness he proudly wears. Reed could have made Sarge a one dimensional dictator but she gave him a heart and, through the use of another character, shed light on what he's really made of.

One of the other major characters I thoroughly enjoyed was Killer Stade. Not the serial killer his name implies, Killer Stade is actually a computer genius sent to Clothos because the alternative destination is jail. Yes, Killer Stade has killed a man. But it's not what you think, and the parts of the book focusing on him were very enjoyable.

Enclave is a very entertaining book that will have me searching for more from this author. Highly recommended.

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