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Book Review: The Last Town, by Blake Crouch

The last town on Earth, and humanity's last stand.


The Last Town

Thomas & Mercer, 2014, 308 pages



Welcome to Wayward Pines, the last town.

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrived in Wayward Pines, Idaho, three weeks ago. In this town, people are told who to marry, where to live, where to work. Their children are taught that David Pilcher, the town's creator, is god. No one is allowed to leave; even asking questions can get you killed.

But Ethan has discovered the astonishing secret of what lies beyond the electrified fence that surrounds Wayward Pines and protects it from the terrifying world beyond. It is a secret that has the entire population completely under the control of a madman and his army of followers, a secret that is about to come storming through the fence to wipe out this last, fragile remnant of humanity.




This review contains spoilers for the Wayward Pines series (including, I assume, the TV series, though I haven't seen it yet).

This series is very much a made-for-TV sort of self-contained epic. Roles for several photogenic actors who drift through some nice scenery for a bit, before stuff starts getting weird. Then you have a deepening Lost-style mystery, more and more inconsistencies and WTF?s pile up, until the entire story goes sideways, and you get the Big Reveal.

So, the Big Reveal happened in the previous books. The residents of Wayward Pines are actually the last survivors of the human race. Thanks to a billionaire genius/megalomaniac named David Pilcher, a select few individuals were placed in suspended animation for 1800 years, to wake up in a perfect recreation of an idyllic little early 21st century town. Where cameras and microphones are everywhere, everyone must act out the roles assigned to them, and anyone who rebels, or questions, or just cracks under the pressure, is brutally murdered in a town-wide ritual.

The premise is not that plausible, but grant it as much suspension of disbelief as you'd give any SF TV series. Taking place mere weeks after the events of the first two books, The Last Town depicts our hero, Ethan Burke, finally confronting the madman who created all this.


"What else could I have possibly done for you people? I gave you food. I gave you shelter. I gave you purpose. I protected you from the knowledge you couldn't handle. From the harsh truth of the world that exists beyond the fence. And each of you had to do one thing.

One!
Goddamn!
Thing!"

He shrieked the words.

"Obey me!"


Pilcher is a sick, psychotic fuck who incidentally did foresee the coming apocalypse and save a tiny sliver of humanity. But that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve what's coming to him. Especially after he decided, at the end of the previous book, to open the gates protecting Wayward Pines from the bestial, mutated descendants of humanity outside, resulting in most of the town being slaughtered.

Once Burke has dealt with that, he then spends the rest of the book dealing with his remaining two problems: (1) While he was asleep for eighteen centuries, his ex-boss and his wife fell in love (yes, through a variety of improbably contrivances, they are in Wayward Pines too, along with the other FBI agent Ethan once had an affair with); (2) It turns out that Wayward Pines isn't self-sufficient enough, and they're going to run out of food in a couple of years. And the entire rest of the planet is occupied by feral superhuman killing machines.

The ending is quite a clever twist that I did not see coming, and naturally, it leaves open the possibility of a sequel series. Overall, this was a good, not very literary, but perfectly entertaining bit of post-apocalyptic sci-fi.



Also by Blake Crouch: My reviews of Pines and Wayward.




My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: blake crouch, books, reviews, science fiction
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