Welcome to Wayward Pines: A Review of The Last Town, by Blake Crouch

This review marks the end of a full week of Wayward Pines reviews.  Pines, Wayward, and finally The Last Town.  The hallmark of a trilogy is one, complete story told over the course of three parts.  There is a structure.  Part one established the world, the tension, the characters, and sets up the main conflict which will percolate through the entirety.  Part two ramps up the tension, answers some questions and leaving others for the finale, and ends in such a way as to set up the final part.  When part three begins, it is non-stop.  Everything that came before ends here, and most, if not all, questions must be answered.  This is the final chance for the creator to show the story as they want it to be shown, to impress upon their audience what the story truly meant.

Blake Crouch released the Wayward Pines trilogy over the course of three years.  Pines in 2012, Wayward in 2013, and The Last Town in 2014.  The following year, the novels were adapted for television and even had an episode directed by M. Night Shyamalan.  Where the first novel was a tense, violent thriller and the second became a murder mystery, the finale of the trilogy transforms into a mixture of thriller and action.  The majority of major questions set up at the beginning have been answered.  By this time, everyone knows the secret of Wayward Pines and the truth of the world.  The rest of the world is wilderness, reclaimed by nature after the destruction of civilization.  Aberrations, mutated descendants of humanity, roam and kill.  The people of Wayward Pines are all that’s left.  The only question left to answer is a simple one: will humanity survive?

There are two types of action in The Last Town, both as thrilling and suspenseful as the other.  Both are perpetrated by David Pilcher, the creator of the town of Wayward Pines.  At the end of Wayward, sheriff Ethan Burke told everyone the truth, breaking Pilcher’s hold on the residents.  In response, he opened the gate to the outside world and allowed a swarm of aberrations into the town.  There is wholesale slaughter.  The regular chapters alternate during this first half of the novel with short chapters from the point-of-view of side characters, following them in their last moments before an aberration murders them.  The second form of action is the colder, more calculating, personal violence inflicted by Pilcher on those around him.  He murders one of Ethan’s allies and he previously murdered his own daughter.  These two types of action blend together to create a tension different from the previous books.  It is tension with a human face.

That human face is a man with a god complex.  In the beginning, David Pilcher saw the future of the human race.  He predicted its downfall.  He gathered the residents of Wayward Pines together in suspended animation.  Some were willing, most were kidnapped against their will.  He began as a man with humanity’s best interest truly in his heart, but the lust for power was always there.  In a flashback, we see Pilcher arrange his own wife’s murder when she attempts to take their daughter away.  The Wayward Pines trilogy shows what happens to a man with a god complex who finally gains the power and control he has always secretly desired.  At a certain point, when the people of the town rebel, Pilcher’s complex takes over.  Like the God of the Old Testament, he decides it is easier to start over than to fix things.  Unlike that God, Pilcher is only human, and remains alive long enough to see his control forcibly taken away from his grasp.  The villain of this story does not escape the consequences of his actions.

Even in the midst of chaos and tragedy, The Last Town still follows our fallible hero, Ethan Burke.  In his past life, Ethan had an affair with is partner in the Secret Service.  Now, in Wayward Pines, his has been reunited with his wife and become friends with Kate.  However, like all real, messy relationships outside of a novel, the tension never disappears.  Theresa Burke will always remember that her husband betrayed her, while Ethan and Kate will always remember how they felt together.  Multiple times, it seems like Kate and Ethan will recommence their affair, but the two have matured since then.  Even during the middle of the apocalypse, these people never forget their past and what that past led to.  At the same time, a figure from their past appears in the eleventh hour.  Adam Hassler, Kate and Ethan’s boss from the Secret Service, reveals himself as a resident of Wayward Pines.  In Theresa’s five years there before Pilcher woke her up, Hassler became her lover.  The tangled web of relationships that was already in place becomes more tangled and threatens to fracture the already fragile society.

Despite the gloom and horror found in The Last Town, the book is surprisingly optimistic.  After reading the first two novels, and most of this one, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But there is a light.  The residents of Wayward Pines band together in their darkest hour, setting aside old grievances and agreeing to wait to settle their current predicament until they are safe from the aberrations.  Even with monsters running in the street, no one abandons another.  There is a common goodness found in all but a few of these characters.  Pilcher and his most loyal meet fitting ends, but the majority of his force abandon his hubris when it matters most and come to the aid of Wayward Pines.  In any other novel, this sort of optimism could be naïve.  But not here.  Here, it is exactly what the reader needs after finishing the trilogy.  The people of Wayward Pines vow to restore humanity and retake the future.  After so much death, it is refreshing to see the hope present in these pages.

So much in this story changes between book one and book three.  Pines is a terrifying thriller, a book where the main character has no idea what is happening and begins questioning his own sanity.  Wayward shows us a trapped town and what normal life is like when you cannot be yourself and must hide every emotion not dictated to you.  The Last Town shows all the structures of the previous novels crumbling into dust.  This is a trilogy which is meant to be binged.  Each book only took four days apiece to read, though that could easily be quicker for other readers.  This is a series which took the thriller genre and experimented with it.  Eventually, there will be another author to pick up the torch and change the thriller genre yet again.  And we will not see it coming.

The Last Town may be found in store, online, or wherever books are sold

Total Read Time: 4 days

Next on the List: TBD

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