by Blake Crouch
Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines in search of two missing federal agents. After a violent accident lands him in the hospital, Ethan comes to with no ID and no cell phone. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but sometimes feels…off. As days pass, Ethan’s investigation into his colleagues’ disappearance turns up more questions than answers.
Each step toward the truth takes Ethan further from the world he knows, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive…..
If you liked The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, then this is the book for you.
However, if you hated that book (like me), then you probably won’t like this one. The only thing that stopped me hating this more than The Strain is that I think Blake Crouch can actually write a decent mystery.
I won’t beat around the bush: this is a bad book. And one I will be spoiling it. Sorry-not-sorry! Either way, it’s bad, so I don’t recommend it.
First off: I thought this was Hemlock Grove. When I realised this wasn’t the series about werewolves, I was disappointed, but it didn’t cloud my enjoyment. The mystery still started off as compelling, even if forced hospital stays do make me a little queasy– which is obviously the perfect feeling when you’re reading a horror.
I actually enjoyed the ‘monster’ reveal at the end: it turned out to be the only part that didn’t suck. If this were a short story, and had a focus on the last part with an emphasis on mystery instead, I’d have enjoyed this more. It works better on a smaller scale, something I noticed in his piece of short fiction, Summer Frost, which he wrote for the Forward Collection on Kindle.
I’ll also say that, at no point does the narrative feel confused, or contrived. It’s a surprisingly fresh concept, albeit the delivery left a lot to be desired. Blake Crouch has a very firm hold over his narrative decisions and I can appreciate that.
It’s just that the writing in this book is… very basic. It’s boring. I knew where the plot was going at all times because it’s predictable and follows every single cliche typical of its genre(s).
A female character is introduced in this book and I knew immediately she would be dead within a few chapters so she could become the driving force behind the anger of the male main character. We do love a good woman in the refrigerator!
Every single woman in this book is useless, they serve absolutely no purpose other than to be an object of the male gaze or to be show as inadequate compared to Ethan. If the strongest reason for your male main character to fight against literal murderers is because a woman he met an hour ago has died, and not the part where they were tearing up people and trying to kill you, I honestly don’t think you can write. These women only function to help the main character, they have absolutely no convincing personality, and that’s very typical of a man writing in this niche, honestly.
The main character is also just… frustrating. Ethan looks at any woman and is immediately like ‘amazing figure, amazing breasts, but she’s a bit old’, and the woman is only in her thirties. I’m not making this up! This happens more than once! He also just expects everyone to comply with him and respect him when he’s throwing his weight around, disrespecting people and the town. Even before the reality of the town is revealed, he’s just rude. I summarised it as ‘White Man Realises He Can’t Just Expect The Handouts He’s Received His Entire Life’ in my Goodreads updates.
If Beverly had survived another 20 pages, I have no doubt in my mind Ethan would have cheated on his wife with her. He repeatedly fantasises about, and commends, Theresa for staying loyal to him in spite of the many, many times he cheated on her, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand not wanting your main character to be likeable, but I think Blake Crouch was actually trying to make him likeable? Which is the worst part.
Blake Crouch may be a decent genre writer, even if he does fall for every cliche that makes the plot predictable, but his characters are, quite honestly, shit. He doesn’t know how to write a woman who isn’t a sponge feeding off of the main character to serve some sort of purpose for his ‘development’ (read: he doesn’t really change all that much).
I do not recommend this. But each to their own, I suppose.
Content Warning: forced drugging, abduction, descriptions of body horror and violence, descriptions of body issues relating to hospitals and needles
If you liked this review, you might like:
🍎Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
🍎The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
🍎In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant
If you liked this post, consider buying me a coffee? Ko-Fi.