Pines

August 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

pinesPines by Blake Crouch

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Pines is one of those books that is all premise. Our main character, Ethan, wakes up in a small town with no memory of how he got there. Through the course of the story, it becomes clear that things are not all normal in the town of Wayward Pines, and the story develops as Ethan strives to get answers to his questions.

The mystery behind Wayward Pines builds slowly, without the author relying too much on the cliches that usually go with this type of story. There’s not a sense of the residents of the town being in on the secret, meaning that Ethan really is the lone exception to the town’s serenity (almost), and as the story develops from Ethan’s point of view, his confusion is our confusion. That part of the story was well done, and kept me reading longer than I expected to.

Beyond that, though, the story is just OK at best. The characterization is fairly weak (the only character with any development is Ethan, and even then, he feels one-dimensional), the writing in places is poor, and the pacing is uneven. The opening of the book involves Ethan dealing with his amnesia, giving the impression that recollecting his memory will be a critical part of the story. Instead, it’s resolved by the end of the first chapter, making me wonder why Crouch didn’t just start with chapter two, especially since his amnesia remains a factor in the story from that point forward.

The end of the book is a clear indication that this book was intended to be just the start of a larger story, which was a bit of an annoyance. The book feels complete, in that the primary conflict is Ethan searching for answers, which he gets, but at the same time, what we get at the end is just a set up for a larger story. I knew going into the book that it was the first of a trilogy, but that kind of ending makes the book feel less consequential, less significant even, because what conflict we just read isn’t even the real story. I felt the same way after reading The Maze Runner.

Crouch uses a lot of half-sentences in his writing, which distracted me. He starts off several lines with the verb (“Realized he should’ve just taken the stairs.”), or he writes them as just a subject (“Group of ranch hands huddled around a campfire.”). I get the feeling he’s trying to use the fragments for effect, but I can’t see why he doesn’t just make them complete sentences. It wouldn’t have made any difference in the narrative, save for not dragging me out of the story.

The story moves quickly, and is compelling, despite Crouch’s taking liberties with his sentence structure. The third act slows down with a lot of description involving exploration, which felt overdrawn and overdone, but the rest of it is electric, keeping the reader guessing as to what’s going on. I had concerns that the ending wouldn’t convince me that the rest of the story was necessary (there was one moment where I thought the internal logic of the story had broken, but Crouch managed to explain that away without cheating), but I was pleasantly surprised.

Pines feels most like a YA novel, with its throwbacks to The Hunger Games and the aforementioned The Maze Runner, but it seems like the book was written for an adult audience. It’s a strange dichotomy, but it’s not unique to this book; Poe had a similar feel to it. The story is engaging enough for me to want to continue reading the series, but I hope the later books feel more like they live up to their potential.

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