BookBub’s monthly book club met last Wednesday to discuss Blake Crouch’s thrilling novel, Pines. It tells the story of secret service agent Ethan Burke, who searches for answers when a horrific car accident leaves him stranded in Wayward Pines, a small town that harbors dark secrets beneath its idyllic veneer. This month’s meeting was lively; it’s always a good sign in a book club when the moderator doesn’t have to ask a single question to keep the conversation going! (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Like To Say Nothing of the Dog, Pines introduced a new genre for many of us in the office, and there was universal agreement that the book was difficult to put down. Our editorial team explained how important suspense and storytelling are in thrillers, and agreed that Crouch had effectively executed both elements.
Many of us enjoyed trying to guess at the dark underpinnings of the town while we read. Some expected the ending to be reminiscent of The Truman Show, while others wondered if Wayward Pines was some kind of purgatory. And although a few suspected the conclusion might be scifi-inspired, no one could predict the haunting truth until the final pages.
A story like this one necessitates some debriefing after the reveal, so a good chunk of our conversation involved helping each other understand questions about the “integration process,” Ethan’s family’s role in the plot, the motivations behind the town’s creation, and the purpose of the terrifying rituals that take place in Wayward Pines (which our account manager consistently referred to as “Murder Gras”).
One element of the story that many of us found interesting were the flashbacks to Ethan’s experiences in Afghanistan. Our production director surmised that this narrative was included to convey Ethan’s tolerance for situations that many of us may not be able to withstand, like those taking place in the novel’s present day.
Throughout the conversation, Pines was continually likened to other stories we’d read or watched over the years. The pacing and structure of the plot reminded us of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, while Crouch himself points out the similarities to Twin Peaks and other tales of small-town utopias with disturbing underbellies. One of our editorial associates noticed a parallel between the situation in Wayward Pines and that in Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Even The Matrix entered the mix!
Overall, there was a consensus that the book laid the groundwork well for a sequel, which many of us plan to read. And after watching the trailer at the end of our meeting, we can’t wait for the TV series to start next year!
Feel free to read along with us next month, when we’ll be discussing Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.