Pines by Blake Crouch (Book Review)


Pines by Blake Crouch is the first in the Wayward Pines series and the novel the new hit TV show is based on. Known originally for violent crime novels, Blake Crouch steps into the realm of apocalyptic science fiction suspense storytelling with his ode to the cult classic television show, Twin Peaks. In doing so Crouch has created a series that stands alongside the cult classic for its eerie take on small town America.

With his partner in tow, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke travels to Wayward Pines, Idaho. The location of two other federal agents who have gone missing. His assignment is to find locate and recover the two agents and investigate the reasons behind their disappearance. As they enter the town they are blindsided by a large truck and Ethan is rendered unconscious.

When Ethan awakens in the hospital, his ID and cell phone are missing and the medical staff, though friendly, are vague about his circumstances and the condition of his partner. As he begins to look into the town and the disappearance of his partner and the two other agents it becomes clear to Ethan that there is something very wrong with Wayward Pines. No one believes that Ethan is who he says he is and he is unable to reach his main office. All of which comes to the badly beaten and murdered body of his partner, locked away in a dark room in a vacant house in Wayward Pines.

Meanwhile, outside of Wayward Pines, Ethan’s family mourns what they believe is his death.

There are many questions in Wayward Pines. The small town, almost Mayberry aspect of the townspeople and their lives. A slice of Americana that may not have ever truly existed but is being lived in Wayward Pines. The isolation and more so, the electrified fence that surrounds them. And what of, the strange creatures in the woods. Ethan begins to realize that he may never leave Wayward Pines.

Full disclosure, I have not seen a single episode of the television series Wayward Pines by Director and much maligned genius M. Night Shyamalan. His recent failures, for me anyway, do not overshadow the brilliance of his earlier work. Besides, I really liked the Village! And I can totally see Matt Damon as Ethan Burke, so after reading this first novel and yes I am picking up the others in the series, I look forward to binging on the television series one lonely weekend.

Also, and this is blasphemy in many circles, I was never a fan of Twin Peaks. Though I will admit to occasionally using the line, “…damn fine coffee…”.

I am a fan of Blake Crouch. Whose early novels of crime and terror are suspenseful and incredibly violent. So for me, Pines is a much tamer novel than I am used too from Crouch. But he makes the transition well. Add in the futuristic aspects in medical and scientific advancement and this absolutely not what I was expecting.

Pines is different. Pines is quirky. There are aspects of the Twin Peaks storytelling but to be honest, the characters are not that far out there. Instead they are far more reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and the Lottery. But Crouch’s love of the old television series shows through in Pines and he makes no bones about the fact that he is basing Pines on some semblance of Twin Peaks. But Crouch cannot help but be Crouch and the violence and brutality of his writing comes through in the murder of some of the victims by the entire town and even by the children.

Pines is terrifying, horrifying, quirky and deeply haunting.

Above all else, it is a damn fine read.


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