August 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

waywardWayward by Blake Crouch


It’s impossible to review Wayward without putting it in context with Pines, so if you haven’t read the first book yet, you should skip over this review. Spoilers for Pines abound ahead.

Wayward picks up almost immediately after Pines, once Ethan has accepted the job as sheriff in the town, and become Pilcher’s patsie. His first official duties lead him to discover a dead body on the street out of/into town, which in turn puts him on to an investigation of a rogue group of residents, which in turn leads him to discover more of the truth behind Wayward Pines.

Cracks in the story start to show through in Wayward, since the big mystery from Pines has been revealed. The logistics of supporting this kind of society so far in the future doesn’t add up. Supposedly, no one who lives in the town, save for Ethan, knows the whole truth, but there’s no way it could be running as smoothly as it does for the fourteen years it’s been up and running without more trouble in the residents. Sure, they know that something weird is going on, but nothing prompts them to wonder more about it? For one, folks know that some residents have tried to integrate multiple times; don’t they wonder and ask questions about how that works? One of the control techniques is to have every phone in the town ring at once, which is the signal for everyone in town — even the children — to get together to hunt and torture someone to death. This is just accepted, without knowing why?

Early in the story, one character is hiking around with plastic milk jugs filled with water, which struck me as odd, 2000 years in the future. For a town as small as Wayward Pines, with its 600-odd residents, would a plastics plant be feasible? I know the compound outside the town is supposed to support it, but to that extent? I’m not sure what the alternative would be, but plastics seems too advanced for what the story is trying to convey. I know that the town was created to suggest nothing had changed for the residents when they woke, but the infrastructure needed to support even a small town seems much too complicated to stuff into a compound, even one built into a mountain. For that matter, it’s suggested that it took twenty-some years to restore the town to its original state after they woke from their animation. That means that the telephone and electric lines were laid down, the asphalt for the roads was refined and laid down, a water refinement plant and all of the pipes and (I suppose) the water tower had to be built. Is that feasible for a society that’s starting over from scratch? For that matter, how did the technology supporting the suspended animation last for 2000 years without support? The law of entropy alone suggests this wouldn’t be possible without some kind of maintenance, especially for technology as it existed in 2013, when everyone went into suspended animation. Were there people assigned to manage all that for 100 generations? It strains credibility, and I think I would have an easier time believing the town had isolated itself and survived for those 2000 years.

Now, I’ll grant that Crouch could be pulling a fast one on me, setting up all these doubts only to reveal that this premise he’s created is just there to dupe me before he drops the real history behind Wayward Pines. If that’s the case, though, then he’s cheated the whole story (the whole series, really) just to pull that rug out from under his readers. Plus, we learn in Wayward that “they” tell those who are integrated into the town that they’re actually dead. Why one layer of subterfuge to cover another, which is in turn covering the real truth? I mentioned in my review of Pines that the story reminded me somewhat of The Maze Runner, and one of the questions I had about that book was, “What could possibly be so important that this kind of project would be acceptable?” I find myself asking the same question here.

Crouch still writes in sentence fragments, and it’s still distracting as hell. Here’s a sample:

Ethan didn’t miss those things. Didn’t wish that his son was growing up in a world where people stared at screens all day. Where communication had devolved into the tapping of tiny letters and humanity lived by and large for the endorphin kick from the ping of a received text or a new e-mail.

There are some places where I could maybe justify this kind of writing (fast-paced action scenes seem more suited to that sort of staccato style), but here he just has Ethan reminiscing. Why not write it properly? How does that passage make any difference from this one?

Ethan didn’t miss those things. He didn’t wish that his son was growing up in a world where people stared at screens all day, where communication had devolved into the tapping of tiny letters and humanity lived by and large for the endorphin kick from the ping of a received text or a new email.

To me, that sounds more impactful, most likely because it doesn’t drag me out of the narrative.

Also, the story unravels a bit, compared to Pines. Where Pines was a nice, self-contained thriller about identity, Wayward takes on strange levels of conspiracy that aren’t managed well together. We have the conspiracy of the administration against the town, then the conspiracy of the rogues against the administration, and then another of Ethan against the administration, at the risk of exposing the rogues even further. It kept getting more and more complicated and layered, until I expected a god to arrive on stage in a box to resolve everything.

The series reminds me a little of The City of Ember, as well as The Maze Runner, and even Wool. It’s just not quite as good as any of those. It’s still compelling and engaging, but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m committed to seeing this series through to the end, but I can’t say I’m excited about it.

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