Wayward: We are all just prisoners here

Wayward by Blake Crouch science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsWayward by Blake Crouch science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsWayward by Blake Crouch

Wayward (2013), the second book in Blake Crouch’s WAYWARD PINES trilogy, picks up right where book 1, Pines, left off. I’ll avoid THE major spoiler for Pines, but minor ones are inevitable, and if there was ever a series where you absolutely need to read the books in order, this one is it. Ethan Burke is the newly-minted sheriff of the small town of Wayward Pines, Idaho (population 461), the prior sheriff having come to an eyebrow-raising end (after reading a few of the flashback scenes in Wayward, one becomes more sympathetic to the urge to dispose of former sheriff, Pope).

Having survived a life-and-death battle with The Powers That Be that control all aspects of life in Wayward Pines, been reunited with his wife Theresa and son Ben, and gotten an explanation of the massive secret explaining the strangeness of life in this small town, Ethan is in a more cooperative mode with the people in charge … well, kind of. Life in picturesque Wayward Pines is so much like a prison camp, with constant video and audio surveillance, strict rules about how to behave and what not to say, and secrets that Dr. Pilcher and his enforcers will kill to protect.

Ethan’s in on the secrets now, but he’s having trouble keeping them. In particular, Theresa is quietly insistent about being told what’s really going on. And now, as sheriff, he’s expected to be an enforcer of the rules and secrecy. His orders include being ordered to spy on a group that’s rebelling against the rules, which includes Kate Hewson, his former Secret Service partner with whom he had an intense affair in his past life. He’s also investigating the violent death of a young woman, and Kate and the rebel group are prime suspects.Wayward Pines (3 book series) Kindle Edition

Wayward doesn’t have nearly as strong of a mystery element as the first book, Pines, but the suspense factor is still high. Ethan’s investigation of the murder and the rebel group, and his own resistance to the deeply problematic aspects of life in Wayward Pines, are leading him to a crisis point. Crouch weaves in multiple flashbacks from Dr. Pilcher’s prior life, which shed light on his motivations and character, as well as those of the people he’s surrounded himself with.

A new subplot follows the adventures of Tobias, a man who’s been exploring the country for many miles around Wayward Pines for the last couple of years, nearly dying many times. Now Tobias is on his way back to Wayward Pines and the woman he loves. Tobias’s story turns out to be far more relevant than I first expected. Though life for everyone in Wayward Pines is far different now, people’s past behavior and decisions tend to catch up with them.

One of my few reservations about Pines was the necessity for the prison camp type of treatment of the town’s innocent and confused inhabitants. Wayward explains the reasons behind it, which is helpful in one sense but not in another, since it involves a megalomaniac mastermind — a character I’ve met a few too many times in literature.

Wayward is a fast-paced SF novel that makes up in tension what it lacks in depth. It ends with a huge cliffhanger; I strongly advise having The Last Town on your e-reader or nightstand ready to start as soon as you finish this one!

Published in 2013. The second book in the internationally bestselling series that inspired the Fox TV show. Welcome to Wayward Pines, population 461. Nestled amid picture-perfect mountains, the idyllic town is a modern-day Eden…except for the electrified fence and razor wire, snipers scoping everything 24/7, and the relentless surveillance tracking each word and gesture. None of the residents know how they got here. They are told where to work, how to live, and who to marry. Some believe they are dead. Others think they’re trapped in an unfathomable experiment. Everyone secretly dreams of leaving, but those who dare face a terrifying surprise. Ethan Burke has seen the world beyond. He’s sheriff, and one of the few who knows the truth—Wayward Pines isn’t just a town. And what lies on the other side of the fence is a nightmare beyond anyone’s imagining.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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