Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July CSFFBT: The Enclave, by Karen Hancock (III)

This is the third of three posts on Karen Hancock's The Enclave, this month's CSFFBT's selection.

Previously, I talked about the book in general and the science and science fiction parts of the book.

Today I'm going to look at the Christian elements of the book.

In a way, this is more difficult than the first two posts: each of us interacts differently with God. I feel much more comfortable making definitive statements about elements of style and treatments of science in a book than I do about how I see the Christian elements, and what impact those elements had on me.

However, I think that one of the valuable aspects of Christian science fiction is the ability to use the genre to both examine and spread the Word.

So here it goes:

Christianity as practiced by Characters

- The first page isn't over yet, and already Our Heroine is stepping back from condemning a co-worker (Our Hero, but we don't know that yet) because it isn't right to be angry at other people. That's one of the things that sold me on this book. The theme of forgiveness was something I could follow throughout.

- Lacey's struggle between reaching for shiny things - including the fulfillment of her professional dreams - vs reaching for God seemed real and was something else I could relate to. I also appreciated the candor of her doubt - she wasn't even sure that she did believe [in the Bible] anymore.

- It was somewhat disappointing to me that Lacey's reaching for God didn't seem to include reaching out to other people. Nor does the charity expressed in the first page really get applied to people who are not Cam. I'm not sure how much weight I want to give this, because it would be really beyond reasonable for me to expect Lacey to develop - over the course of even a 500-page novel - into a person who tries to express Christ-level love for everyone, including people who kidnap her and try to use her as an incubator for human-monster hybrids.

- Lacey looked up stuff in the Bible. This is probably a small thing, but I love it. When in doubt, read the citation yourself.

- Cam was actually the character whom I found most accessible, and I greatly appreciated his attempts to live his faith. The combination of "I'm here to try to bring the Good News to these people" with "What am I thinking? I'm such an arrogant idiot for trying to take this on" seemed spot-on.

- I also loved that Cam was shown to be as much a research geek in his faith as he was in his work. I think that was about perfect, that Cam would try to dig very deep into Biblical scholarship, and would read weighty books with lots of footnotes in Latin about the Bible and Christian thinkers. (Note: This might not have been exactly what the author intended me to think.)

- That both Cam and Rudy accepted the orders given to them - and the roles set out for them by God - echoed for me the centurion's response: I am a man under orders; give the word and I know it shall be done.

- Cam's willingness to accept that Gen might yet come to believe in God, too (at the very end of the book) was another appealing part of his character.

- Cam's Creationism: ehh. I'm...disquieted, here. In the 'public stoning' - where Cam is dragged in front of a group of his peers and forced to defend his faith - Cam is asked why he became a geneticist if he believed that the modern diversity of life had not developed along evolutionary lines. (Heavily paraphrased.) Cam's answer is "Maybe I wanted to prove it false." On the one hand, that's not really an answer. On the other hand, it's an indication of lack of integrity - going at something (and working for someone) under false pretenses. On a third hand, it's not as though Cam was hiding his bias.

- Cam got up in front of that crowd to defend his faith.

- One of the interesting and very close to awesome parts of the book was Zoan's interactions with God. That Zoan was looking for God before even knowing what God was, that was really kewl. That sequence - Zoan's questioning of the world around him, and his quest for answers - that also hit home.

- It bothered me, how easily the main characters dismissed the Wives and the K-J technicians and security guards and all the others killed in the Nephilium attack. One of the things that makes me twitchy in books and movies is a callous attitude towards collateral damage. Spear carriers are children of God as well. If I have to pick my main issue with Christianity as depicted in this book, it would be that - the relative self-focus of our two main characters.

Christianity as shown in the book

- A couple things seemed a little off, like the attention paid to the fact that Cam's church community advocated 'daily bible study.' (I wonder what the executives at K-J would have made of a Catholic who wanted to attend daily Mass!)

- As I said previously, it has not been my experience that a whole group of scientists would have been either vocally hostile or silent while others were hostile towards people of different religions. Particularly because there are so many different levels of 'living your faith out loud' - someone might be very committed to demonstrating the gospel at all times, just not in words.

- It's been suggested that the strong anti-religion feeling among the scientists happened because Swain & co all picked anti-religious scientists for the Institute. This seems reasonable.

- Jade's dismissal of the Bible as "an old book that ought to be dead by now" seemed...extraordinarily ham-handed, for a person who hadn't shown a great deal of capacity for thoughtlessness up until then.

- On one hand, it was a relief to see an Evangelically-toned book with a negative portrayal of a separatist cult. On the other hand, part of the Enclave's activities seemed to mirror Catholic (or High Church) rites. On one hand, it might be difficult to create a rite that didn't seem to reflect Roman Catholic tradition. On the other hand, I might just be overly sensitive here.

- I would have liked to have seen more discussion of Swain's pov on the Bible and God - his true, real thoughts - given the proven existence of the Nephilium. I think it was telling that he referenced Genesis in his presentation.

- When God said, "You think I can't handle that?" to Cam, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. God is capable of extraordinary mercy and beauty, but I really appreciate that this book took the opportunity to show God's power as well. Plus, thunderbolts!

- I liked the depiction of the clones (Zoan and his friends, at least) as perfectly normal people. This contrasted with the feeling of abomination I read into the descriptions of the Wives and the clone/hybrids. I can see a number of reasons for not going into details of the lives of the Wives, but part of me thinks this was an opportunity for more examination of the meaning of humanity. Surely a child with golden skin or a third eye or neck quills is no more an abomination than is a leper or an AIDS patient.


Well, I think I've come to the end of my notes. I really appreciate anyone who's taken the time to read all this.

Time for the fine print:

Featured book, The Enclave -

Karen Hancock’s Web site -
Karen Hancock’s blog -

Other CSFFBT Participants’ Links:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Heather R. Hunt
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Mike Lynch
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Elizabeth Williams


Anonymous said...

Wow, Elizabeth. Thanks for taking the time to write such thorough and substantial entries. I read all of them with great interest and appreciated the opportunity to read your thoughts on the book. It's always cool when a reader can relay this level of interaction with the words and elements of one's work.

Anne said...


(Wow. The author stopped by my blog. That is so. kewl.)

Thank you for stopping by, for being so graciously accepting of the feedback, and especially for reading the whole. dang. post. (Posts.)

I would like you to esp. know that I spend this past Friday and Saturday carrying The Enclave around with me, even though I had all day Sunday to finish reading it as well, because the end had started rolling and I just couldn't put it down.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I also found Cam and Lacey's faith to be very real, and I loved Zowan's search for God -- I loved even more that God was taking the time to break into the Enclave and reach these people for Himself. A picture of His work throughout history, I think.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I've read all of your posts, too, Elizabeth, and think you've done such a good job. Reading, including reading fiction, should make us think, and you've demonstrated that you interacted with this book on a deeper level (which in turn spurs me on to go and do likewise!) Great!


Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Thanks for the question! I answered on my blog, but I figured I'd put my answer here too so you don't miss it :). As follows:

Elizabeth, thanks for your thoughtful comment! You're a sharp reader -- reading your observations has been really enriching.

So thanks for calling on me to clarify my position: I don't believe that all scientific endeavour is equal to playing God; rather, Swain's scientific endeavours are tainted BECAUSE he's trying to play God.

It was belief in a rational and knowable Creator that enabled modern science to get off the ground in the first place, and to my view, scientific endeavour is much like writing novels -- we do it because God put it in us to do it. When we do it well (and doing it really "well" should involve acknowledgment of God), we glorify Him.