written by David Steffen
Pines is a… I guess I’d call it a mystery fantasy/SF thriller… the first of a trilogy written franchise tie-in novel written by Blake Crouch and published in 2012 by Thomas & Mercer.
If you follow reviews on this site regularly, and this one seems familiar, that’s because I’ve already posted a TV review of Wayward Pines Season 1 which is based on Blake Crouch’s trilogy of books and covers a similar set of events as the trilogy of books.
The story begins as U.S. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke travels to Wayward Pines, Idaho to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who were last heard from as they approached the mysterious little town. After a car accident en route, Ethan wakes up in the Wayward Pines hospital, unable to contact anyone and unable to leave. In many ways it seems like a stereotypical small town, but there are big warning signs that something is not right in this little town–the strange things that people say, the strict rules the town keeps about not talking about your past and not asking questions. He wants nothing more than to escape the small town and get back home to his wife and son, but every route out of town is blocked–the main road only loops back into town again. He finds one of the agents he was looking for (whom he had had an affair with in the past), but she seems to aged more than she should have. Everything is a mystery in this mysterious, ominous, little town.
I read the books after already seeing season 1 of the TV show, and so I knew pretty much what to expect but I was interested in where it differed and where it was the same. Pines stuck pretty close to the TV show, albeit covering only the first few episodes. There are some notable differences, probably just to compress the plot enough to fit it on TV, and the book had more of an emphasis on Ethan’s past torture at the hands of a terrorist. The main things that differed were supporting details like character appearances and character ages, and that sort of thing, which is always a little confusing but not terribly so.
I commented in the TV Review that some of the “weird little town” moments kind of reminded me of Twin Peaks but that the show did a reasonably good job with them and didn’t make it just a ripoff. I was interested to read in the introduction that Blake Crouch is a huge Twin Peaks fan and this trilogy was his attempt to write something that had some of the same feel to it, so I think it’s interesting that I picked up the reference.
Book 1 provides a pretty solid plot arc on its own, making it a reasonably good standalone book on its own. By the end of the book you find out clear explanations for most of the weirdness in the town but with enough questions left to leave plenty of remaining mystery, the immediate plot arc resolves in a satisfying and interesting way, and at the end of the book the situation changes drastically enough to serve as an excellent hook for reading the next book–many things are the same but big big things have changed so if you’re like me you’re immediately drawn by the question of “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?”