open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
This book holds the distinction of my fastest read of 2015. I started reading this morning while I was still in bed and continued all the way through lunch. By afternoon, I was finished. It was the first book this year that I managed to finish in practically one sitting.
You must be wondering what kind of book that managed to get me to do that but now that I’m here, ready to pour my thoughts about it, I am at a complete loss on how to describe it. Pines by Blake Crouch is not just a book that defies expectation – it also defies definition.
It started as a thriller: Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke found himself awake in the middle of nowhere and soon discovered that he’d been in accident. Not being able to remember much at first, he learned that he was in a small town called Wayward Pines, which was somewhere in Idaho. Luckily for him, his memory came back to him little by little: he was apparently there on a mission to find two missing Secret Service agents. Before he could even start his investigation, however, the accident struck. Unfortunately, nobody in this town wanted to help him – not the sheriff, not the pharmacist, and definitely not the creepy doctor and nurse that treated him at the hospital. All of his attempts to escape Wayward Pines failed. It wouldn’t be long for Ethan to discover what we have been dreading since the first chapter: there was something very, very wrong with Wayward Pines. Not least of which the fact that nobody could leave there…
The premise is but a small part of the book that attempted to obfuscate readers by using different timelines (there seems to be flashbacks and flash forwards) and adding small bits of subplot here and there. Halfway through, Pines starts to open up and gives us clues of what’s happening, but first it changed that suspenseful first act into an adventurous – and very filmic – survival saga. In this second part, many times Ethan questioned whether what was happening to him was really happening. Expectations continue to build up…
When the climax hits in the third act, what Ethan felt, we feel also. It was a case of “what the f*ck!” mixed with a bit of “oh no he didn’t!” But he did. Blake Crouch entered complete and total science fiction zone in the final part, doing his best to give Michael Crichton – which was quoted at the end of the book (at least in the copy that I have0 – a run for his money. It was an insane finish; one that had me gaping in shock. While it might be dubious whether this ending could truly satisfy – admittedly, it was so outlandish that it takes us a while to wrap our heads around it – you have to admit: it was audacious. Gutsy. Ballsy.
For the sake of surprise, I won’t describe what it is – it’s one of those books that you just have to read on your own. But, yeah – again – it was crazy and it’s worth finding out what this craziness is.
Crouch admitted to being inspired by the Twin Peaks TV series, created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, although he dared not call his book on par with that cult show. He was being modest and, yes, in many aspects, Pines is not the literary equivalent of Twin Peaks, although the Lynchian influence – that proper use of the surreal atmosphere that engulfed Wayward Pines – was clear in the book. Anyone who loved the TV show should definitely check this book out, if only for the sake of comparing and contrasting. Interestingly enough, FOX is going to start airing its own adaptation of Pines, starring Matt Dillon, Toby Jones, Carla Gugino and Juliette Lewis, and it’s purported to be ‘the new Twin Peaks’. It would be fun to discover just how showrunner Chad Hodge and director M. Night Shyamalan interpret Crouch’s book for the screen.
The book has two sequels, Wayward and The Last Town. Usually I would be the first person to race to the bookstore to buy them because I can’t resist sequels, but this time around, I think I’m going to hold off reading them. It’s not that I’m not curious about what happens next – trust me, if the next books hold answers to the impossible situation Ethan is in at the end of Pines, I will most certainly be reading them to get some clarity – but Pines is a book best to savor for a little while. Let the story seep in first before moving on. And somehow I have a feeling that the shock I’m reeling from won’t be over for a good long time.
Matt Dillon and Juliette Lewis playing Ethan Burke and Beverly, characters from the book, on the pilot of Wayward Pines, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.