A week into his job as Wayward Pines’s sheriff, Ethan Burke successfully destroys paradise.
It happens about that suddenly in the story and it looks like he doesn’t have a plan for what’s about to happen, but that’s the suspense that leads to the last book in the series.
As a refresher, Wayward Pines is an idyllic American town that holds a dark secret. The secret is that it’s 2,000 years in the future and beyond the town’s electrified fences are millions upon millions of abominations.
Wayward Pines is the last town on Earth and David Pilcher, its creator, is doing everything he can to keep order while beating down anyone who tries to disrupt his little town. He does this by brainwashing citizens and forcing them into silence. No one can talk about the past, no one can talk about the strangeness of the town, and no one can talk about escape.
Watching them from a mountain fortress are a number of agents of the town with its “best interests” in mind. However, they’re a touchy and tight-knit bunch trapped in the spartan living quarters they’ve been given. It’s a powder keg trapped beneath a million pounds of rock.
Did I mention within the fortress there are also hundreds of people in cryogenic sleep? They’re woken up one by one and integrated into the town’s bizarre culture. Ethan’s job is to help people get used to their new life by convincing them to shut up and settle down, or tricking them into thinking they’re dead.
And whether the resident will see Wayward Pines as heaven or hell is really up to him.
Right from the very start of the books, you start to think that Pilcher has some kind of grand plan for Ethan. He’s been sent to hell and back three times in three separate integration attempts, but Pilcher taking a vested interest making sure he’s stitched up to try again.
Now Ethan’s running amok screwing with Pilcher at every turn and making sure he doesn’t do anything he says. You’d think that with the way the town’s shadow boss has dealt with insubordination in the past, i.e. killing people, Ethan would already be pushing up futuristic daisies. Not so, and the second book’s plot comes to a head when Ethan is told to investigate his former partner who has, perhaps, committed the first real murder in the history of the town.
Without giving much more away I can safely say that this book is extremely different from the first. In the opening chapters, we’re shown a little bit of Ethan’s home life in the town. He can’t talk to his wife, Theressa, about his new job or the terrifying reality that exists outside of the electrified fences.
They do most of their talking during sex.
There’s a lot of sex in this book and it’s out of place. Blake Crouch goes into detail with things like how Ethan wants to come at the time as his wife, but hasn’t been able to in the last two times they’d had sex. It also turns out that there are microphones and cameras all around their house making sex feel slightly exhibitionist.
During sex, Ethan also manages to whisper what’s really going on to his wife saying something like, “We’re the last town on Earth, baby”.
It’s a bit of a change in tone for the books, but the sex is just cheap pull into the series for people who might not have gotten into the violence-filled first book.
Sex doesn’t make Ethan feel more human as a character nor does the realization that everyone in Wayward Pines is cheating with everyone else including Ethan and his wife. Sex makes up a big part of the book, but it doesn’t feel essential.
Another issue is the weird pacing and disjointed way that the narrative is built. Throughout the second book, we’re taken back in time to David Pilcher’s past showing how he met characters like Pam and revealing a bit more information about his daughter Alyssa, who was just recently murdered in Wayward Pines. Right in the middle of something exciting, we’re stolen away to the past. It’s exceptionally frustrating.
As well, we’re also shown characters like a warden living in a guard tower on the outskirts of Wayward Pines. And we’re also given the continuing saga of Tobias, a scout who was sent out of the town to explore. We also have to deal with Ethan’s awkward interactions with his son Ben who has all but forgotten that Ethan is his father. And we’ve got to deal with the investigation into Alyssa’s death, which turns out to be a little more complicated.
It’s a little disjointed.
We also have to watch as Ethan interacts with his old partner who is part of a strange conspiracy in the town. However, it turns out that she’s pretty much accepted her fate in town. The only conspiracy she’s part of it a secret hideout that just wants to have fun times talking about the past.
It also turns out that Kate has nothing to do with Alyssa’s murder, but rather she was murdered by her father and the psychopathic Pam. It’s a realization that gives Ethan quite a bit of power. He knows that the people of the mountain won’t exactly be too happy when they find out one of their favourite buddies was murdered.
Pilcher is losing his grip, Ethan is gaining confidence, and the citizens of Wayward Pines are starting to get sick of the world around them. This conflict culminates in a fête, a ritualistic murder ceremony where Ethan reveals everything to people of Wayward Pines. At the end of the book, Pilcher snaps and the electrified fence that protects the town is turned off.
The citizens of Wayward Pines are shit out of luck.
So that’s where everyone is left at the end of Ethan’s first week on the job. It goes pretty poorly.
The other big revelation is that Tobias is actually Adam Hassler from the first book. It turns out that he had been working with David Pilcher to abduct Ethan. His end goal: living with Theresa and making her the happiest woman in the world. You can imagine that his return to Wayward Pines might make things a little awkward, so that’ll be a big thing in the next book.
Anyway, I can’t say the second book was as much of a page turner as the first. Ethan’s continual defiance of Pilcher’s commands starts to lose its impact as you realize that he’s simply just not going to fight back. It feels like Pilcher is intentionally trying to bring about his downfall and maybe there’s more going on here than at first blush.
It would have been better if the focus remained on building up the mystery that the book focuses on: Alyssa’s murder. It’s all too obvious right from the start that Kate isn’t the murderer and the revelation that Pam helped out isn’t exactly stirring.
I can also see the television show that’ll be starting in late May losing quite a bit of steam after the first book’s events come to an end. You’re going from a strange town syndrome to a pretty simple murder plot, so it’s a bit of a step down.
Anyway I’ll be reading the next book, so check back soon.