Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Digital Audiobook narrated by Emily Bauer
Published by Square Fish Macmillan on April 12th 2011
Series: Razorland #1
Genres: Dystopia, Horror, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Zombies
Length: 261 pages or 7 hours, 53 minutes
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New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters--or Freaks--who seem to be growing 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--guided by Fade's long-ago memories--in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.
There are pluses and minuses to listening to audiobooks. In the case of Enclave I think I would enjoy this better in paperback than audio. Emily Bauer’s narration is high-pitched and adds a childishness to the story that made me cringe a bit. Like The City of Ember and The Giver, this is an interesting dystopia led by children. The world is rich and fascinating, but the childish edge makes it easy to disregard. So, unless you’re passing this forward to a middle grade reader, I’d strongly suggest the book over the audiobook.
Even though the dystopia genre is a bit tired, I still enjoy this style of novel. The post-apocalyptic world challenges humanity – how will they survive? The normal pattern is show one group of survivors, and then a few stragglers find another group far better off. In many ways, there’s nothing new to see in Enclave. The standard dystopia worldbuilding tropes still apply. That said? Don’t mess with a good thing. Tropes may be used and reused, but they’re still good when they’re done well… and Enclave is done well.
In a genre without many surprises, it becomes imperative that either the characters or plot pick up the slack. In the case of Enclave, I’d say it’s the characters. There’s a feel to the group that is reminiscent of The Darkest Minds – that familiar, but a well-loved feel of a mismatched group with a common need for survival who learn to trust one another. I love that in Enclave, we get to watch all four of them come together and learn to trust, slowly adding to the number through the book. It’s nice to get to know one character fully before adding the next, and when I think on it… I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book with a gradual build of characters… and I really liked it.
This was a relatively fast-paced book. On one hand, that’s a good thing because it holds your attention. On the other hand… I think it only worked because so much of this world was already familiar to those who read dystopia. Events rolled out really quickly, and characters resolved their differences too quickly to feel, strictly, realistic. I will admit that if you aren’t closely analyzing the book (ah, joys of being a book blogger!) you may not notice this.
As far as the storyline goes – again – nothing particularly unique here. This is a set up book and there are shades of all the books I’ve already mentioned, plus Station Eleven and a little bit of a LIFEL1K3 feel. This book, much like the others, involves the loss of faith in ones society and making way into the greater unknown in search for some sort of answers. This is a recycled plot, but like the worldbuilding, there’s nothing wrong with this trope, as long as it’s done well. And it is – the pacing and characters help.
I know that all in all, I appears I’m shrugging Enclave off as “not that great” because it lacks originality. That would be unfair. Despite not having a “Dazzling New Plot” or “Unique Twist on the World”… it’s still a good book! Sometimes familiar stories are the best ones, and I would like to see where Ann Aguirre goes with this cast. If you’re a fan of dystopia, and prefer a story without romance getting in the way (all too common for this genre!) I definitely suggest giving Enclave a try!
Do you mind tropes? I’m all for them as long as they’re well-written! Some are cheesy, but I don’t think using a less-cliche setup would fix that. Tell me some of your forgivable tropes in the comments!