With The Last Town, the final (or so we assume) Wayward Pines tale, Blake Crouch continues moving beyond the creepy, Twilight Zone spirit of the first book, through the post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama of the second, and into a realm of pure post-apocalyptic horror.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of this installment. For a long while it felt an awful lot like an extended epilogue that got cut from the final pages of Wayward, only to be restored here, padded out, and artificially extended with a series of flashbacks. It was interesting, but so far removed from the spirit of the original novel that I had a hard time finding the hook. Fortunately, the hook drops at about the halfway point, when Crouch reveals a new layer to the story – an ever deeper, darker secret as to why Ethan Burke and his family found themselves in Wayward Pines.
Some readers might feel a little bit cheated by that reveal, given that it involves a character who conveniently finds his way back into town just in time to help save off the apocalypse of abbies, but it helps shift all the pieces into place.
This is a violent, bloody book in which we really explore the consequences of Burke’s decision to expose Pilcher’s secrets to the town. In fact, there’s a lot of discussion here about intentions and consequences, with that thread touching the lives of multiple characters. Once again, Crouch subtly philosophizes here about a number of topics, including free will, the right to choose, diplomacy, trust, responsibility, the so-called greater good, and the fine line between monsters and men. Those themes actually underlie the entire trilogy, but it’s not until this installment that it all becomes clear.
As it turns out, Crouch’s decision to weave so many flashbacks into this chapter not only makes sense, but it actually makes for a much stronger novel. Watching men, women, and children run for their lives can only carry a story so far, and even the most gleefully sadistic of readers will find that the carnage wrought by hungry abbies begins to wear thin after a while. Those flashbacks are important in a narrative sense because they help break up the violence and pace the story, and they’re even more important from a plot sense because they add weight to those struggles.
The final climax is well-played out, with one last secret forcing one last difficult choice upon the people of Wayward Pines. To say any more would be to spoil the final twist, but I really don’t think there was any other way Crouch could have wrapped up our clean-up of The Last Town.
Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by Thomas & Mercer