I can’t make my mind up about Wayward Pines, but it doesn’t really matter because Fox TV made up their mind and it’s all going to be a mini series one of these days. Which is a pretty ballsy move by Fox TV, because the three main books (there are a tonne of extra stories you can download off the internet) swerve all over the place the way that TV generally doesn’t. I’m not sure how that’s going to fit in with the usual TV model of set up an unchanging situation and just keep nursing it along until the residuals kick in.
Above all, it’s a very rapid plot. Everything happens in a month or less. There are flashbacks over much bigger chunks of time, but the main action runs very fast. At the beginning of the first book, our protagonist wakes up in a small town that he can’t find a way to get out of, and by the end of the third book he’s torn the whole place down around and killed all the bad guys and half the bystanders. In book one, he gets to find out what’s really going on in the too-good-to-be-true town; in book two, he’s co-opted by the bad guys to be sheriff and help to run the terrible conspiracy behind the whole enterprise but instead tears the whole thing wide open; and in the final book he completely fails to come up with a brilliant idea to save everyone from the chaos he’s unleashed. And that’s the whole thing; Fox TV’s bought themselves a cousin of the problem that Under the Dome hasn’t been able to solve.
All three books are just one high-concept idea; billionaire lunatic decides that the world is going to hell, so he comes up with a scheme to put a small town in suspended animation and wake them up when the world’s hopefully more to his liking. Our hero wakes up in the middle of this, since billionaire lunatic is definitely not running an all-volunteer operation; instead he’s faking car accidents, slamming people into suspended animation and waking them up centuries later in a painstaking recreation of a small Mid-West town as though it’s the day after the car crash. The whole first book is about our hero figuring this out, and Crouch does a pretty good job of keeping it confusing and creepy for most of the book. It’s not easy keeping a big reveal like that on the down low, no matter how many distractions he throws into the mix, and I was impressed by the way it was carried off; and also by the way Crouch made me feel the hero’s concussion - there’s a queasiness all the way through his scenes which gives them an extra bite.
In a sense, the first book is almost like a pilot for an indefinite series; the situation’s been set up, the basics have been explained, and now our hero can be the wacky sheriff of the wacky post apocalyptic town. It would be A Town Called Eureka, but grim, and surrounded by mutant cannibals, and run by psychos. No, wait, that sounds terrible. Crouch seems to have thought the same thing, because the status quo falls apart with impressive and bloody speed in the other two books, until there’s nowhere left to run for anyone.
My hat’s off to Crouch to realising that there was only one way to go and no point in dragging it out, but the other two books don’t rise to the same levels of creepy angst the first one pulls off. We know what’s going on now, and without a central mystery, the essential weakness of the set-up starts to bite. Has it struck you yet that I haven’t used any character names? I finished reading the third book about three days ago, and I’ve forgotten what the hero’s name was. I can remember some of the villain names, and I can actually remember all the important character points which clutter up the hero’s personal life; I just can’t remember his name. He’s going to be played by some chiselled dark haired alpha male looking actor, and he had the kind of name a chiselled alpha male would have in a cop show, but what was it? I could look it up, but that would be missing the point.
That’s not my real gripe; I forget people’s names all the time. My real gripe is that the mad science doesn’t make any sense. Even if you buy the idea that people can be put into suspended animation for two thousand years, you still have to buy the idea that on the one hand, food supplies, petrol and I don’t know what all else can somehow last in storage for the same length of time without going off, while on the other hand buying into the idea that the entire population of human beings can die off and somehow evolve into vicious carnivorous taloned naked Morlocks prowling a depopulated North America in literal billions. In the real world, it took something like 6000 years for Tibetans to evolve slightly more efficient lungs; there has been literally no noticeable change in human morphology in the last 20,000 years.
Still, fun while it lasted and the opening book has some punch to it.