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Pajns (2014)

Pajns (2014)

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3.81 of 5 Votes: 5
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About book Pajns (2014)

I watched Twin Peaks during a Netflix marathon last year. I may not have a nostalgic flavor to my fandom, but I was fascinated by the series and its brilliantly zany characters. With the plans for a new Twin Peaks series in the works, I've been hungry for similar stories. The Wayward Pines series is, by the author's admission, inspired by the genius of Twin Peaks. The author freely admits that it is not as good as Twin Peaks. My problem is that it isn't good-- at all.The creepy perfect small town is a staple of horror fiction, evidenced in "Village of the Damned", "Silent Hill", "Edward Scissorhands", and, yes, "Twin Peaks", among scores of other stories, movies, shows, and even videogames. Having spent a portion of my childhood in a very small town, the appeal is abundantly clear: facade is all-important in towns where everyone knows your name and judges you by the character attached to that name, so it gives a sense of satisfaction to read a story where one sees behind the facade, into the ugliness of those who judge, into the true nature of those who are judged. There is also the horrifying aspect of the people around you being against you, as everyone that was ever the new kid in school can attest to. This is a basic horror story foundation, and the basis of Pines: the story of a man, Ethan Burke, who wakes up in a freakish town lightly gilded with a Mayberry glow of perfection. There will be major spoilers from this point on, for the entire book.The problem with the way this story goes, for me, is that the perfection coating the town's dark side is far too transparent. Ethan knows from the start that there is something wrong with the town, so the reader never really believes its suburban idealism. This utterly eliminates any kind of suspense as to whether Ethan or the town is wrong, dropping Ethan into the very tired role of "the harrowed protagonist". There is no shock of a character seeming innocent, then turning out to be evil. There is no suspension of belief at the atrocity of human nature in this town. The author attempts this several times (such as the children's attack), but these tropes are far too dated to really shock and horrify. In the age of the internet, you need to establish a lot more than humanity's aptitude for cruelty to really horrify a reader. "Pines" never even humanizes the antagonists, making them seem more like nasty scabs of the species than living, breathing human beings that have been forced, tortured, and conditioned into cruelty. Human beings as monsters are always more terrifying when their humanity is juxtaposed with their seemingly inhuman malice. The small town horror trope relies on humans being made to do evil, humans that buy groceries, kiss their kids goodnight, read a book on the toilet, and then go and gleefully cut the eyelids off a person. You see a few barbecues and scenic snapshots of the Wayward Pines citizens, but none of it ever convinces you they're very human. In fact, these scenes feel more like a script than a novel, giving you a visual without ever telling you why the visual should disturb you. Again, a novel has to portray emotionally first, then visually, otherwise it's no more than an elongated script. (Which is a style of writing that has become annoyingly popular, and which apparently has producers buzzing like flies to adapt to the screen. Mission accomplished, I suppose.)As for Ethan Burke, I feel very sorry for this harrowed protagonist, but I never asked to trust him. I didn't want to like him, I wanted to doubt his story, puzzle out his mental state for myself until the end. I believe the author was trying to capture the allure of Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper, but a charismatic and handsome actor can grip attention in one instant on the screen, whereas a literary character must draw you into their psyche. I never was very intrigued by Burke. Descriptions of his handsomeness mean nothing whatsoever, and his epic romance was incredibly flat: a typical and dated tale of a guy screwing up and cheating, his wife loving him no matter what, their kid, job-related angst, ho hum. Yet Burke is the most plausible character in the entire book. His wife, Theresa, has no personality besides crying and loving and drinking, their boy even less, and the way the affair was glossed over despite Kate's being missing mystifies me. If none of the characters live on the page, how is the reader supposed to care about their story? Worse yet, for a horror story, how is the reader supposed to wonder who is truthful and who is lying, who is sane or insane, when the answers are so blatantly stated from the beginning? Horror is always formulaic to a degree, but "Pines" establishes a 'Ethan good, Wayward Pines bad' mantra without giving the reader the chance to puzzle over it at all. Which makes it all the more baffling as to why the author continues to insist through the narrative that Ethan thinks he's going crazy, might be crazy, must be crazy. With the narrative saying one thing, Ethan's perspective saying another, the reader is left so that any conclusion can't really be much of a shock at the end.The end did, at least, achieve some of the unexpected. I did not expect Twin Peaks to turn into The X-Files. The genre completely turns from horror to science fiction here, ignoring every hint of crime drama Burke's being a Secret Service Agent ever brought up. Before detailing the end, I have to take issue with the crime aspect of this story. We are supposed to believe that FOUR Secret Service agents went missing in a town while investigating financial blips (never entirely explained), and the US Government never sent a task force down there? Never found the base in the mountains? Never tracked Pilcher's trail? If the experiment had been government-sanctioned, it would have made sense, but as it stands, it's ludicrous. The explanation given for all of it, is actually simple despite the paragraphs used to explain it all: mad scientist had a hunch (before DNA or RNA) that humanity's abuse of the planet would eventually screw up human beings physically, that our time on Earth is limited, and that he should do something about it. Mad scientist (Pilcher) buys a remote town and builds a bunker in the mountains, where over decades he collects (via kidnapping) people to eventually populate a post-apocalyptic town. The people are stored in suspended animation (supposedly more scientifically believable than cryogenics) for one-thousand years plus. They are woken up and told they were in a car accident, their lives are reordered into a Wayward Pines lifestyle, and you have-- the last small town in America! Only, America is gone, the world is overrun by monstrously evolved human/animals, is this supposed to keep humanity alive for more than a few generations again? In conclusion, Ethan is alive. He knows the truth (all he wanted,really, other than--) and he has his family back. With little more reason than survival and love, he decides that if you can't beat them, join them, and so he stays in the not-so-perfect little town at the end of the Apocalypse. It's a disappointing end, but hardly bleak enough to be tragic. The best way I can describe it is that it is mildly despairing, which is about how I feel about having spent the time it took to read the book. I think Pines is a really nice book. There is a good story behind it that will keep you rifling through the pages. The pace is fast, the plot twists are enjoyable and the final reveal is quite well thought out, not completely unforeseeable but nice with few-to-no "holes".This being said, the characters are not all well fleshed out, there is some back-story to help you understand them but most never get to shine. Actually almost none get to shine except our protagonist who gets enough "screen time" to gain some depth.There are also some moments where it's hard to believe the story and some situations which don't really seem plausible even in the story's universe, but nothing was really jarring, the plot kept me moving and even my disbelief towards some events or situations contributed to the great atmosphere and edge-of-my-seat reading.It's definitely not one of the best books I've read but it's an easy and fast read, fun, action-packed, mysterious and well thought out, giving you just enough at every turn to make you want to keep going, and I am, I'm starting the second one in the series.

Do You like book Pajns (2014)?

Great start to a trilogy. Found on Amazon Unlimited, or I would have never discovered this Gem.

Really enjoyed this book. Can't wait to read the next one!

A fast read. Addicting from beginning to end.

Our March 2015 pick! Chosen by Kimber. (#34)

Started creepy and ended even more creepy.

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