WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE
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 Deuce 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.
Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.
To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.
Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.
In the world Deuce is raised in, everyone has a role to play, and her role is the huntress. The society she’s raised in has little time or care for affection or bonds between people. It’s the whole that matters and as a Huntress, Deuce contributes to the whole by providing food and protection. The society of the Enclave also doesn’t truly acknowledge the value of a person until they make it to the age of 15, prior to which they are but one of any number of brats, signified by a number if thought of at all. Now that Deuce has earned her name and her place in the Enclave she’s dedicated to maintaining her society through any means necessary. But on her first patrols she’s paired with Fade and the relationship she develops with him turns her world upside down.
Strength vs. Power
A lot of the first book seems to be focused on the questions of strength versus power as well as the good of the whole versus the values of the individual. In Enclave, we see how Fade, who had known a life outside of the tunnels brings a different perspective to Deuce’s lift, opens her eyes to other viewpoints and opinions and how that ricochets through her world.
Throughout their journey together, in the tunnels and above, Deuce struggles with the new-found idea of tempering her strength, be it either with mercy or justice. It takes her some time to realize that her physical prowess isn’t the only thing she’s good for and that brute force with no thought or emotion behind it has less value than she had been raised to believe.
The Little Woman
As we enter Outpost, we find Fade and Deuce, partners throughout all of Enclave, distanced from one another. Along with Stalker and Tegan, two other teens they picked upon their journey from the tunnels to the city of Salvation, Fade and Deuce are trying to find their way in this new society they’ve entered into. While the others seem to have blended in more or less successfully, Deuce is having a harder time of it, primarily because her upbringing to be a Huntress is directly at odds with the role a woman is expected to play in the town of Salvation. Think 1850’s style western town politics and you’ll have a good idea of what Salvation is life: a place where men are men, women are domestic and deviating from what we think of as standard gender roles is a good way to get attention of a negative kind. Throw in the fact that the Freaks, or the Muties as they’re known topside, are pressing closer and closer in on the town and you can see how deviation from the norm isn’t a safe practice.
Picking up on the theme of what’s best for the individual versus what’s best for the collective good, Outpost also explores the ideas of family and forgiveness in touching ways. The history between Stalker and Tegan looms above them, as do the misunderstandings that have plagued Fade and Deuce since they’ve known one another. Add in the love triangle that Stalker keeps pushing on Fade and Deuce and there are some tense moments. Still the emotional turmoil helps to propel Deuce’s growth as a character and I found myself invested in her story.
Emily Bauer does a great job bringing Deuce and her world to life. She conveys the emotions, horror and hope, love and loss, with honesty and has the perfect voice for Deuce, who’s so young and is forced to be so old at the same time. Definitely worth listening to if you enjoy audiobooks.
And if you enjoy these books, there are two shorts out there from the world of Razorland: Foundation, which is a prequel and gives some insight into the world as it feel apart prior to how we know it in Enclave and Endurance, a touching story of what happens to Deuce’s closest friends in the Enclave after she leaves. Both are only 99 cent eBooks and both are worth reading!