Thomas & Mercer, 2013, 298 pages
Welcome to Wayward Pines, population 461. Nestled amid picture-perfect mountains, the idyllic town is a modern-day Eden - except for the electrified fence and razor wire, snipers scoping everything 24/7, and the relentless surveillance tracking each word and gesture. None of the residents know how they got here. They are told where to work, how to live, and who to marry. Some believe they are dead. Others think they're trapped in an unfathomable experiment. Everyone secretly dreams of leaving, but those who dare face a terrifying surprise. Ethan Burke has seen the world beyond. He's sheriff and one of the few who knows the truth: Wayward Pines isn't just a town. And what lies on the other side of the fence is a nightmare beyond anyone's imagining.
The first book in the Wayward Pines trilogy was Pines, so now we have the creatively-named second book, Wayward.
There is not much to say about this book without spoiling the Big Reveal at the end of the first book, so you've been warned.
Okay. So, in Pines we learned that this idyllic little town that pretends to be a time capsule preserving a perfect little slice of America, except that no one can leave and they periodically get together for a bit of murdering their neighbors, is a literal time capsule. They've all been put in suspended animation and revived 1800 years later in a post-apocalyptic wasteland dominated by humanity's successors - feral, monstrous creatures that are like a cross between orcs and wolverines.
All of this was engineered by a mad billionaire who somehow foresaw the coming apocalypse and selected a chosen few to join him in the future. Unfortunately, he's a psychopath who runs the town like an Orwellian nightmare, spying on everyone at all times, forbidding anyone to talk about what's really going on, and forcing folks to kill their neighbors if anyone tries to rebel.
Into this dystopia came former FBI agent Ethan Burke, and when the first book ended, Ethan had been let into the secret and made the sheriff. Incidentally, Ethan's wife and son were preserved and brought into the town with him. As was his former lover, another fellow FBI agent.
Ethan is in the classic position of being a good man who's been put in charge of the bad guys. Naturally, he wants to save the town (but especially his family) while somehow outwitting the evil Wizard of Oz who's actually running things behind the scenes.
Wayward is as tense and captivating as the first book. It's also even more improbable, as we learn more and more about what's really going on, and Ethan engineers one unlikely escape after another. My suspension of disbelief kept being tested, but I kept reading.
This book ends in a huge (albeit predictable) cliffhanger, and hopefully everything will be resolved in the third book, though since this was made into a TV series, who knows?
Also by Blake Crouch: My review of Pines.
My complete list of book reviews.