When I had finished „Pines“, the first book in Blake Crouch’s „Wayward Pines“ trilogy, it left me with mixed feelings: I had enjoyed all these mysteries about this odd little town in the middle of nowhere in Idaho and loved the „Twin Peaks“-like atmosphere that came with it but the conclusion felt a bit absurd. While I usually love mind-blowing plot twists I didn’t really know what to think about the one that ended „Pines“ because at first it felt way over the top and a bit like a cheap way out of all those inexplicable circumstances, but after reading a bit more of Crouch’s works and now knowing that he writes thrillers of the rather unusual kind (see his latest novel „Dark Matter“ for example) I grew much fonder of the actual background story of Wayward Pines – also because the author provided an even better follow-up with the sequel „Wayward“ that didn’t have quite the „what the fuck“ moments as the first book but managed to make this extraordinary setting appear more realistic and thus even intensified the very special atmosphere.
The end is near
After the shocking ending of „Wayward“ things look really bad for the people of Wayward Pines now and it didn’t take long for me to get the feeling that this story maybe won’t have an happy ending at all. Blake Crouch did a pretty good job at creating a terrifying scenario that left very little hope for survival and it might sound cold and cruel but I absolutely loved how desperate the situation in this third book was. There are a lot of dystopian or apocalyptic stories that TELL you that humanity is on the edge of extinction but „The Last Town“ actually managed to make me FEEL it. Wayward Pines was never an innocent town (just think of those gruesome fetes that were supposed to keep the inhabitants in line) but with this final novel this small and supposedly idyllic town irretrievably becomes a place of violence and death.
Madness reigns in the once so idyllic Wayward Pines
While I loved that things went completely out of control and madness invaded Wayward Pines I was a bit afraid that Blake Crouch would focus too much on action and forget about an actual storyline because the first half of the book keeps the plot very simple and mostly gives us scenes where people run for their lives, try to hide from what’s been waiting behind the fence that surrounded the town or die a very unpleasant death. The author switches the point of views every few pages and even introduces a few new character but a lot of them only live long enough to fill one or two chapters which is too short to really get attached to them but on the other hand gives you a good idea of how hopeless the situation in this book is. „The Last Town“ is definitely by far the bloodiest book in this trilogy but Crouch keeps the gory descriptions rather short so that the depiction of violence remains tolerable.
One of my favorite thriller settings
So after the first half of the novel I was sure that this final installment would become the weakest book in the Wayward Pines series but then Blake Crouch began to slow things down again and gave the story more room to evolve and this second half brought up all the strong sides of this trilogy again. I already mentioned the intense atmosphere of these books but the more this story approached its end the sadder I got about having to leave this town behind for good. The town of Wayward Pines has easily become one of my favorite thriller settings thanks to its unique scenario and all of its many mysteries and I wouldn’t have minded if Crouch had decided to write more than „just“ 3 books set in this extraordinary environment.
Is there still right or wrong?
Another favorite aspect of mine is how the author managed to not just differentiate between black and white but created a world where it was sometimes just impossible to make the right choices because every decision had its own grave consequences. FBI agent Ethan Burke who has been the main character for most of the trilogy never was the typical hero which began with him cheating on his wife and went on in the second book where Ethan eventually made a decision that cost dozens of lives, but while it was easy to judge him for the betrayal of his family there were still a lot of moments where I could relate to him and supported his decisions. I never really got to like Ethan Burke but still cared about him and found him to be a very interesting character that made for a good protagonist. The same goes for David Pilcher, the „villain“ in this series and founder of Wayward Pines: of course he was responsible for many deaths and it was scary to see how he thought of himself as a God but on the other hand I admired how he made his vision become reality and also acknowledged him as a brilliant scientist who actually did manage to save mankind – even if it was just a shockingly small part. I loved how Blake Crouch made me question myself over and over again about how I would have reacted in certain situations and realizing how impossible some choices were to make made me feel even more with the characters.
A great ending to an exciting trilogy
The „Wayward Pines“ series is far away from being a sophisticated read and obviously sets its focus on entertainment but I appreciated how the author tried to make this world as complex as possible and I’m actually a bit sad that it ends with „The Last Town“ since in my opinion there’s still a lot of potential for even more stories to tell – especially after THIS ending that I definitely hadn’t seen coming and which left me with a lot of new questions but still felt like the perfect ending to this trilogy. Now please make me happy and write either a prequel or sequel series to this, Mr. Crouch!