04 junho 2011

Review: Enclave (Ann Aguirre)

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (2011)
Format: Hardcover | 259 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Description (Goodreads): "In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Like many other authors of speculative fiction, Ann Aguirre also decided to jump onto the "YA Dystopian/Apocaliptic fiction" hot train. With two adult series already out, Aguirre can hardly be considered a newbie in the genre, even if it's her first time writing for younger audiences. Unfortunately, after finishing "Enclave" all I could think of was that this book needed so much work it did indeed seem to have been written by a debut author.

Deuce lives underground in what's left of the subway tunnels. Her community (or "enclave") survives by dividing people into three categories according to the "job" they're going to have for the rest of their lives (job chosen at the tender age of 15). Some are Breeders (tasked with procreating and caring for the "brats"); some are Builders and spend their lives checking and improving the integrity of tunnels and fabricating tools to cover the necessities of the Enclave; and the rest are Hunters, the warriors that protect the community and travel the dark tunnels looking for food. The biggest threat to the Enclave are the "Freaks", humanoid flesh-eating monsters that constantly try to attack the underground human communities. Life is hard and people die young. This is the reality of life in the Enclave.

Rings a bell? Yep, it did remind me of something as well. Earlier this year I've read a book with a very similar plot line; it was Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. But while Glukhovsky's carefully crafted underground world made the reading of his book interesting, "Enclave" left me cold, because the world-building wasn't nearly as good. And the story was dangerously similar.

Our heroine, Deuce, a Hunter has to assess a threat by journeying to the next underground community (just like in Metro 2033); at some point in the narrative, through an unrealistic turn of events Deuce and her mysterious partner Fade are exiled and have to go to the surface.
This is where it starts being less "Metro 2033" and more "Forest of Hands and Teeth". As they are also searching for a 'mythical' place that no-one else believes in.

So, story-wise, "Enclave" has very little to recommend it. It's been done and done better. I must admit I was impressed by certain aspects like the descriptions of the crumbling human civilization (yes, I've seen that documentary too... the one that showed how long it would take for our cities to decay if we disappeared), but other than that there is little to recommend in this book. The characters were flat and the romance unrealistic, the story was not properly developed (besides the aforementioned lack of originality) and there was one thing missing that really annoyed me (as it did in Metro 2033): Aguirre didn't explain how it happened. Why did our civilization fall. Maybe it comes in later books, though, since this is part of a series.

On the plus side, I found this book a lot easier to read than her adult ones. The writing was simpler (I guess it was a little convoluted in her other books) and the characters were likable (albeit flat and stereotypical). It was also interesting to see how much knowledge had been lost (Deuce didn't know the meaning of certain words or the use of certain objects).

Overall, this Young Adult Dystopian doesn't stand out from other works in the genre. If you are a fan of the genre though, you may want to give it a try as it is an easy and quick read, but don't expect much in the way of originality or character development.

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