It seems like just about everything I’m reading these days is either a movie or TV tie-in. Most of my favorite authors haven’t written anything recently and so I’m turning to books that have inspired, or are going to inspire, TV shows and movies I like. Wayward Pines showed up on my radar and was a surprisingly good series so, of course, I couldn’t miss reading the books by Blake Crouch that inspired it. This is the first book in the trilogy. They’re not particularly long, but they are densely packed and if you enjoyed the series (see my review for that here), you’ll love these as well.
Let’s follow the bizarre adventures of Ethan Burke right down the rabbit hole into Wayward Pines.
When Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke arrives in the small town of Wayward Pines, he’s involved in an accident, his partner is killed and the town just won’t let him leave. He’s there searching for two missing agents, but one he finds dead, tortured to death and the other is far too old and is happily married for many years. Something is wrong, but Burke can’t figure out what it is. Maybe it’s the town Sheriff, Pope, who seems to have an inordinate amount of power. Maybe it’s the evil nurse Pam who delights in causing Burke harm. But there is something strange going on and Ethan Burke is going to get to the bottom of it or die trying.
I know I keep saying I hate it and then keep doing it to myself, but having seen the first part of the TV series and then reading the first book, it’s really hard keeping the two separate. There are some significant differences between the two and I understand why the TV series did things a different way, just to cut some sequences that were unnecessary to the story.
Okay. Let’s start off by saying that this is largely a love letter to the 1990 series Twin Peaks. Blake Crouch says so in the afterword explicitly. It’s also very reminiscent of early Dean Koontz novels so if you like those, you’re golden. If you don’t, you’re probably in a bit of trouble. I will say that as much as I liked the book, the writing style bugged me. It is. Very. Fragmented. There are incomplete sentences galore. I have no problem with stylistic decisions made by the author, it does bother me to have to read things like that. I find it very jarring. There were also some significant logical problems at the end and fair warning, I’m about to spoil the whole book.
Pilcher says that Wayward Pines is the last remnant of humanity on the planet, everywhere else, humans are extinct, or have mutated into those creatures that are running around, we’re never quite sure which. There are just over 800 people remaining alive, so how the hell do they justify killing those that don’t fit into Wayward Pines, especially when they have perfectly functional suspended animation chambers? If they don’t work out, just re-freeze them! In fact, it really makes no sense to ever unfreeze someone because there is apparently no plan, at least not that has been revealed, for what to do with these last remnants of humanity. What’s the purpose of keeping them alive for 2000 years if they’re just going to live in this little Twilight Zone town until everyone dies? In that, it strikes me a little like the mythology behind The Matrix, where they have to fool everyone into believing they live in an older time because people just won’t accept anything else. Now sure, Pilcher has something wrong with him but I don’t buy spending billions of dollars and 50 years of his life setting this place up, only to have it turn into the Pint-Sized Slasher when the chips are down.
The other thing that makes no sense is that Pilcher went to get Burke’s wife and son and put them into suspended animation too. Why? It doesn’t sound like he gathered the families of other people and before you say that Burke was special, this was 2000 years before he knew that Burke was something different. How did he know to get the wife and kid?
There’s also a lot of gratuitous violence that isn’t necessary, it’s added for shock value. The whole sub-plot of Burke’s PTSD over being tortured in Iraq doesn’t add anything to the story, I suppose we’re supposed to think that he’s going to fight to survive because he wants to be with his wife, but throughout most of the story, there’s no reason to think that he’s ever going to see her again and everyone is telling him he’ll never get out. Surely there was a better way to get this idea across without pages of torture porn.
Now it might sound like I’m down on the book but I’m really not. It’s a great concept, it’s just not carried out as well as it should be. Of course, this is the first experience I have with anything by Blake Crouch so I’ll give the second Wayward Pines book a shot, probably the third as well, just to be complete. Now that the secret is out of the bag, maybe we can get to something more interesting than skulking around in the dark, bleeding profusely.