Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wayward (Wayward Pines #2) by Blake Crouch

Wayward Pines is a small town nestled in Idaho.  It has picturesque views of mountains and a small population that mostly knows each other.  It's about American as apple pie, if you ignore that each house has a running camera to track movements and sounds, jobs and even spouses are assigned.  No one ever speaks about their past.  The primary rule however is that no one can leave.  This is the world Ethan Burke finds himself in.  Human civilization collapsed nearly 2,000 years ago when humans devolved in Abbies/ Aberations.  Ethan knows all to well what is on the other side of the wall.  Somehow he has to balance people's right to know where they are and what happened to them, against his life and that of his family.  If that were not enough, as the local sheriff, Ethan is responsible for finding out who killed one of Wayward Pines citizens.

Pines, the first series in this trilogy is really about the mystery of Wayward Pines.  In this current novel, now that the mystery has been answered Ethan must find a way to live with what he knows.  The world as he knew it is over and while Wayward Pines offers relative safety and comfort, it is controlled by David Pilcher - a ruthless man with a God complex. 

Pilcher more than any other character in this story got some serious character development.  Wayward Pines is the result of his life's work and its also his sole obsession.  Pilcher didn't just save humanity out of a sense of altruism, he very much wants to be perceived as the great benefactor, in short, a God. The children in school are even taught that he is their real father.  Pilcher went as far as to have his wife murdered when she refused to take the leap with him into the future.  He cultivated the trust of people who were vulnerable in some way and offered them security and a dream of a better tomorrow.  It's easy to see why those who live in the mountain (the humans that are aware of the real state of this world ) almost worship him.

Throughout Wayward, it's clear that this book is a long chess game between Ethan and Pilcher.  We do get the perspective of other characters like Theresa for instance but that serves largely to remind us of the horror the citizens are living with. The disagreement between Ethan and Pilcher comes down to power.  Pilcher having envisioned and created this town feels that it is right to control it and the people in it. Ethan even fully aware of what life is like outside the fence is determined to have some sort of control over his life and some basic privacy. He doesn't buy into Pilcher's belief that the ends justifies the means.

The dance between Pilcher and Ethan is interesting but it does have some flaws.  What would motivate Pilcher to keep waking Ethan up when each time he has made it clear that he isn't going to go along with the program?  Knowing that Ethan is not a man to be controlled or manipulated, what sense did it make for Pilcher to decide to invest Ethan with power by making him sheriff? And the coup de grâce? Pilcher with Pam's aid killed his own daughter and that tasked Ethan with finding the murderer.  Pilcher could have taken her body outside the walls of Wayward Pines He could simply have buried it but instead he left her body for Ethan to find and then tasked him with finding the murderer. Yes, Pilcher claimed to want to put the blame on Kate by planting a weapon at her house but for someone who is capable of conceiving and starting Wayward Pines, his plan seems overwhelming ridiculous.

The female characters continue to be a problem in this trilogy.  Thus far we've had three women die (note: I am assuming Pam's death) and two have served as lessons to Ethan.  Beverly's death served to underscore the consequences for not following the rule.  Alyssa's seemed to be all about ensuring that Pilcher is understood to be a bloodthirsty megalomaniac. The mere fact that this man sanctions public executions -- where an entire populace participates -- is more than enough to give the reader an idea of what kind of man Pilcher is, without having him kill his own child, for having her own ideas about the running of Wayward Pines.

Theresa showed a little more gumption in this book.  Prior to Ethan's arrival, Theresa had lived in the town for five years and seemed to acclimate quite well.  What finally spurred her to seek answers was her worry that Kate and Ethan have resumed their love affair.  Of all the reasons to renew Theresa's interest in finding out the truth, did it really have to be about infidelity? If that were not enough, we know that Hassler, Ethan's former boss and the man Theresa lived with in Wayward Pines is on his way back with a great discovery.  This means that we can expect some angst soon between Hassler, Ethan and Theresa. What this story does not need is more relationship angst; there's too much going on already.

Then there's Pam.  When I learned that Pilcher had picked her up as an abused street kid, so much made sense.  Of course she is unfailingly loyal to Pilcher. From her point of view, Pilcher saved her life. Book one did  a lot to establish Pam's loyalty to Pilcher's vision but we weren't  given a reason for her zealot like nature.  Now that I have some understanding, I still find her to be a horrible character but then, she's not meant to be liked.  Given that Pam was left to the abbies, I am assuming she is dead.

Finally there's Kate - Ethan's former lover.  I liked that Kate only gave the appearance of assimilating and had spent years having a secret life. It shows just how strong her character is that she didn't give up like so many did. I was disappointed to learn that Kate didn't know what is going on in Wayward Pines and yet Ethan, who had been a resident for 2 weeks knew. I would have liked for her little rebellion movement to have been a lot more active.  It would have made the story far more intriguing.

Well, Crouch has one more book to wrap this story up.  At this point, I have given up on finding any inclusion in this series.  The Wayward Pines series continues to be all straight and all White.  There's no excuse for it whatsoever, particularly given that Pilcher had the ability to hand select people to go into his pods.

So this probably ends with Ethan and Pilcher squaring off and like far too many dystopians, Ethan lives up to his white hero role and not only saves Wayward Pines but helps rule the town benevolently into the future. The writing is so on the wall for this one.  I hope that Crouch pulls away from this scenario but the likelihood that this is how it all wraps up is strong.  That said, the idea for the story is still inventive and if the predictable ending happens, at least to this point in the story, I'm not sorry that I picked up the book