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Book Review: The Enclave by Karen Hancock

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Lacey McHenry is on her way to the big-time in the field of genetics research. Newly hired as an assistant in the world-renowned and incredibly well funded Kendell-Jakes Longevity Institute, her new chance at life is just waiting to unfold before her. Working in the ‘frog room’ at the lowest position in the Kendell-Jakes totem pole does seem to lack a certain degree of panache though, and as it soon becomes clear – involves a great deal of danger as well. When a late night intruder barges into the high security facilities, Lacey is swept away and becomes the victim of a cover-up that casts her as delusional.

Doubting her own sanity, she turns to Cameron Reinhardt, the absent-minded genius master geneticist who stumbled onto the scene of the disastrous intrusion moments after it took place. Warned to steer clear of Lacey and to help the institute cover its tracks, Reinhardt’s Christian principles draw him towards a compassionate and haltingly honest relationship with Lacey, whom he soon longs to protect from the dangerous maelstrom forming within the institute.

All this seems normal enough for a Christian suspense novel, but things are not as simple as they seem in Karen Hancock’s Enclave. Alternating with Hancock’s descriptions of Lacey’s struggles to discover the truth about what happened that night are flashes to a world entirely unlike her own. A totalitarian, cultish, post-apocalyptic community called “New Eden,” where free thought and rebellion are punishable by death appear throughout the novel. Now I’m enthralled. Give me a good dose of people hiding underground on a poisoned earth and I’m in. Better yet, God is at work amongst these imprisoned souls – leading them towards the truth, light, and freedom that are only available in Him.

And to mix things up even more, Dr. Reinhardt has a mysterious past, a past that includes military involvement in a secret mission gone wrong. It’s those deeply hidden memories that make him so vital, both to his current employer and to a secret agency actively seeking to unravel the accusations of questionable genetic tinkering that swirl around its directors.

The interweaving of spiritual truth and dependence upon God are evident through Enclave. The characters’ doubts, struggles with reality, and need for support are all deeply under girded by their faith. They continually seek God’s guidance in the intense and unusual situations they find themselves in. These spiritual interactions are authentically written, particularly in Cameron’s case. His walk in faith includes all of the usual doubt, questioning, and revelation that is all too familiar for Christian readers.

Hancock does an excellent job of writing to draw her readers in. As the two worlds of the institute and New Eden are drawn ever closer to each other, I read on tenterhooks – awaiting the inevitable conclusion. The intersection of the two worlds in the midst of genetic engineering was not difficult to predict, or an unfamiliar premise for those familiar with sci-fi that tackles the potential dangers inherent in cloning. However, Hancock grabs the wheel and spins hard towards the end of the novel, revealing a re-imagined monstrosity from pre-Flood days.

In all honesty, I felt that this unnamed sudden interjection was pretty wild and incredibly speculative. While Hancock writes from a literal understanding of scripture, there are quite a few ‘what ifs’ tossed around in order to build the last third of the story. The believability factor hit an all time low with this development, it was simply built upon too many incredible suppositions for it to come across as credible.

Hancock is an excellent writer, and my emotional investment into her characters led me through the larger-than-life climax of Enclave. Though the story had morphed into a bizarre blend of secret mission tactics and nearly laughable comic-book style invaders, I pressed on, and was relieved when the ride was over. If you’re in the mood for some pretty ‘out-there’ reading, Hancock has the writing chops to keep you involved and on edge as you anticipate the unlikely collision of three story streams. Just prepare to be surprised when they do.

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