Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review of "The Enclave" by Anne Charnock

Anne Charnock’s 2013 novel A Calculated Life was a quiet success.  A human dystopia, Charnock discreetly melded an engaging storyline to material that reflects on the direction the upper class is moving with technology.  No zombies or savage survival to sugar the senses, the main character’s plight traced the suspense inherent to her rather specific circumstances through a personal search for meaning in the protected niches of an affluent city.  Charnock returning to the novel’s setting in 2017, the novella The Enclave addresses a part of the story A Calculated Life briefly touched upon, but through the eyes of new characters wildly different circumstances.

Where A Calculated Life featured the symbiant Jayna and was largely set in an urban environment, The Enclave takes place in the ‘burbs and is told through the lives of a young boy and his overseer.  Not an American, white picket fence suburban existence, the enclaves (as they are called by the locals) are home to the underclass—people who do not want or cannot take advantage of the biological and medical technology available in the city.  Caleb is a boy in the enclave who has been sold into indentured labor to Ma Lexie, a woman whose small crew runs an operation turning trash and recyclables into cheap clothing.  Ma Lexie recognizing his talent, she immediately sets him to work sewing clothes and selling their goods in the market.  Ma Lexie’s treatment of her crew both gentle and rough, Caleb gets an occasional slap for his transgressions, but at the same time has a relative degree of freedom that many other indentured servants, like those he tosses bottle message to from his rooftop hut, don’t.  Big choices eventually placed upon the shoulders of a small boy, Caleb’s time in the enclaves comes to a head: he must decide his future.

In the vein of work by Maureen McHugh, The Envclave tells a classic science fiction tale with social and political bent.  Where A Calculated Life centered around the lives of the haves, The Enclave looks at the have nots—each side with their own relevant set of problems inherent to technological imbalance.  The novella’s ending is quite familiar, but through the journey Charnock focuses on the interaction of the characters—what drives Ma Lexie to use both carrot and stick on her servants, what Caleb’s motivations are beyond survival, the social circumstances people in the enclave are reduced to by the state of the world beyond, and other ideas. 

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