Way to go Ethan Burke, you ruined everything for everyone.
During his tumultuous month as the sheriff of Wayward Pines, the former secret service agent and series protagonist manages to destroy what little hope the townsfolk had of surviving in this harsh world.
At the end of the second book, Ethan pulls back the veil of secrecy surrounding the idyllic town of Wayward Pines. Everything is an illusion. Now 2,000 years in the future, they’re all that’s left of humanity. They are also surrounded by violent mutants with translucent skin, big chompers, and deadly talons. What’s worse, David Pilcher, the town’s despotic god, has decided to turn off the power to the electrified fence keeping them all safe.
Things are not looking good, baby.
Ethan manages to get about a third of the town’s population killed with a stupid plan, he uses up the entire town’s stores of ammunition, and he does a great job of making his wife hate him even more by acting like a teenager in the middle of the apocalypse. He does manage to finally deal with Pilcher’s wrongdoings, but justice enacted against one person is a crappy reward for what was lost.
Rather than recounting the events of the book, I figured it would be a good time to really analyze the series in its direction, characters, and setting.
Like many post-apocalyptic novels, Wayward Pines is a heavily character-driven narrative. We’re supposed to care about the trials and tribulations of the characters because their humanity is being tested. They have to deal with the desolation of society crumbling and face down the dregs of what’s without indulging tp their base desires.
In The Day of the Triffids (a favourite of mine), Bill Masen and Josella Playton are part of a small minority of people who can see in a world that’s been stricken blind. A green meteor streaking across the sky was the last image many of the world’s population saw as society grounded to a halt.
What’s worse is the presence of the Triffids, a sentient alien plant that’s determined to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. We watch as the characters connect with one another trying to save blind citizens, how they react when they fail, and how they face down being kidnapped by militaristic factions that have risen up in the crisis.
There are parties all around England trying to rebuild society and some of them manage to get a good jump on restarting things. While on his quest to survive, Bill returns to ancient libraries of knowledge to farm the land and work the soil. There is some hope that humanity can save itself. In Wayward Pines, humanity it utterly fucked because the characters are awful.
Adam Hassler is, perhaps, one of the worst characters in the series for this ‘shit out of luck attitude’ that characterizes the survivors. Having spent 1,000+ days in the wilderness outside the town, Hassler has seen more than perhaps any other human in the world. He’s seen the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge and he’s seen the millions of ‘abbies’ that roam the land.
However, according to him he has a secret that can help save humanity. He’s rushing toward home in order to deliver this information and to be reunited with Theressa Burke, Ethan’s wife with whom he’s had an affair since she arrived in Wayward Pines.
So what is this huge secret he wants to deliver? Is it secret way of communicating with the abbies to pacify them? Is it a hidden fortress that could house the people of Wayward Pines forever? What is this goddamn awesome secret that had me reading well into the early morning?
We’re all screwed and humanity will not survive this apocalypse.
Well thank you very much, Adam, for what is probably the most flaccid moment in the entire series. Seriously, we wait an entire book to see what this guy has to say and he just tells Theressa that humanity is done for. He says we should enjoy every single day to the fullest. That was his big revelation that he wanted to share with the world? Really?! REALLY?!?!?!?
Ok, well it’s not too bad; however, I think it’s something that points to a larger problem in the trilogy as a whole. There is no real mystery in Wayward Pines after the first book.
There’s just so much static. In the first book you learn early on that Theressa and Ben, Ethan’s son, is somewhere inside of Wayward Pines. They were taken by David Filcher and when it’s revealed that she’s been in the town the reader isn’t really surprised. If her presence in Wayward Pines was left a secret until the end of the book it would have been such a better stinger.
In the final book each chapter is presented from the point of view of a citizen of the town. It usually focuses on Ethan and Theressa, but it also brings in no-name characters who are somehow now important enough to steal away 10 pages in the book.
We see someone playing a card game in the middle of the abbie infestation talk down to one of the creatures. We follow a married couple where the husband turns out to be gay. And we follow a family who gets separated when the husband decides to barricade his family in a cellar. It becomes a cavalcade of stories mixed with sequences from the past that explore the rebuilding of the town.
We’re also introduced to a character named Francis Leven, who is a recluse living in the mountain fortress where David Pilcher hides. Apparently he takes care of the food arks that hold the town’s supplies. He’s also a bearer of bad news in that supplies are running low. He tells Ethan that the town has about 4 more years worth of supplies and then that’s it. In one chapter, he gives a run down of supplies and shows that there’s a definite lack of things like sugar, flower, and corn. It’s an added knife to twist in Ethan’s slowly dissolving resolve in a post-Pilcher world.
As well, abbies are a very banal threat throughout the series. Sure, they’re hyper futuristic humans, but they’re really just stupid, snarling wolves. They’re not impervious to bullets, they’re not all too smart, and they’re definitely not vegetarians as the violent descriptions of them eviscerating citizens are all too eager to remind us. They simply have strength in numbers against the fleshy humans. We don’t know how evolved and it doesn’t seem like anyone in the town’s mountain fortress really cares to find out. There is a captive female abbie being held in the fortress, but she never develops as a character.
They’re just the boogey creatures that help keep the action moving the story forward. What’s worse is that the other villain in the series, Pilcher, devolves into a quivering mess that swears his way through telling Ethan that they are the same. It’s the kind of bad writing that you’d expect to hear from a James Bond villain, not the so-called genius behind the survival of humanity.
As well, Ethan doesn’t have a plan for what happens after he takes over the mountain. The solution that they eventually figure out is a total copout when compared to the fortitude seen in the characters in other post-apocalyptic series. Humanity can find a way, but Blake Crouch takes a darker view of how humans will react to desperation.
What the citizens of Wayward Pines decide to do is freeze themselves in cryogenic stasis. Whether it’s done to wake up when a new civilization exists or as a kind of mass suicide, I don’t really know. All I know is that the book’s epilogue was underwhelming. Ethan opens his eyes 70,000 years in the future.
So instead of facing a world where they have some supplies, a working infrastructure, defences, and workers… they decide to take a chance on the future. The stasis pods could have failed, they could wake up under the ocean, or they could just all be dead. Great plan, Ethan.
Suffice to say, the third book in the series ends on a low note. Ethan Burke destroys paradise without a vision for what comes next, but can you really expect an ex-soldier to think along the same lines as someone like David Pilcher? Ethan’s a soldier, a fighter, and a survivor not someone who has a vision for retaking control of the Earth.
What’s more problematic is that all of the events in the book take place in the span of a month. There’s really no time to figure things out, but that doesn’t make the decision to just throw away the world to start anew any less sudden. How will their chances of survival be any better 70,000 years in the future? It felt rushed as if there could have been so much more done with the abbies. They could find a way for humanity to co-exist with them or find a way to destroy them for good.
Or maybe that’s the whole point of the series. Humans are dumb, irrational, and reactionary. When faced with an easy route and a hard route, we’ll always take the easier way out. Just freezing yourself until whenever is ultimately easier to deal with than having to rebuild all of humanity from scratch. I feel like there was still a chance to develop a new world.
In The Day of the Triffids, humanity is well on its way to rebuilding. They have a significant advantage in that any new humans born post-disaster will have sight. They also have the Triffids mostly contained. Industry begins anew as the world’s infrastructure is rebuilt. When Pilcher decides to take the icy plunge into cryostasis, it’s 2013.
Let’s be real, the world isn’t that bad yet. I don’t think that within the span of 2,000 years humanity will turn into a predatory species with huge talons and horrid teeth. If Pilcher really wanted to use his wealth to do some good, he could have just used his influence to fix things in the present while sealing off Wayward Pines as a kind of cult. It would have worked and his ancestors could have headed off the slow transformation of humanity while bolstering their own numbers with “pure” humans.
In the future, the people of Wayward Pines are so utterly overwhelmed that there’s no realistic way for them to actually come out on top in any scenario. Maybe they could have moved south and closer to the equator, maybe they could use drones to drop Sarin gas ahead of their trek to a new world, or maybe they could just kill every single abbie they see until they seize some real territory.
The point of Wayward Pines ultimately becomes that it’s pointless to fight against change. Anyway, that’s what I got from the final book in the series. I can’t say it impressed me as much as the first. I can also say that I have my doubts that the television series will make it past the first season with what they have to work with. I cannot see Wayward Pines being panned out into a multi-part series, but I’ve been wrong in the past.
The big problem now is that I know practically everything about the books, so I don’t think M. Knight Shyamalan will be able to surprise me with any new revelations. There’s definitely going to be a stronger focus on Ben in the series, which sucks. In the IMDB page they list a friend of his from school, so we can expect to see Wayward Pines from his angsty point of view.
But hey, the television premiere went pretty well according to a few sources online, so excited to watch more episodes. I still encourage people to read the books, but know well in advance that spoilers will definitely ruin any a-ha moments Shyamalan wants you to experience.