A lot of people will be coming into PINES fresh off FOX’s miniseries, Wayward Pines, but I haven’t experienced either before. I remember seeing Blake Crouch’s PINES enter the Kindle store several years ago as a ‘new release’ – I remember the title, and even downloaded a chapter. Much to my chagrin, I didn’t purchase it! Years later, it’s now a blockbuster franchise and I found myself itching to read the book, mostly because I didn’t have the cable channel to watch Wayward Pines.

PINES follows Ethan Burke, a Secret Service agent sent to the peaceful town of Wayward Pines, north of Boise, Idaho, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of two Secret Service agents. Involved in a car accident, he awakes with scattered memories – and soon finds that this utopian town is hiding a strange secret.

What follows is 300 nail-biting, jaw-dropping, gut-squirming pages of intense action and mind-spinning sci-fi trip-outs. The first three-quarters of the book are non-stop horror/suspense that would easily place the book alongside the best suspense writers out there – Crouch’s gorgeous style of prose has the unique freshness of his indie-published career, but rather than seeming cheap or amateurish, his prose enhances the tension and bloody drama.

PINES is difficult to describe, because anything I want to say is spoiler territory – basically, the book will subvert your expectations at every move, flipping reality upside down, and eventually slamming home a massive science-fiction revelation that, admittedly, can feel a little disjointed with the suspense elements of the book.

That being said, PINES is the type of novel that grabs you and refuses to let go. The slightly older characters and more violent scenes and language enhances the plot in a way that a comparatively hamstrung YA novel couldn’t achieve. I wasn’t sure what to expect from PINES, but it has quickly risen into the ranks of the best novels I’ve read this year.

The Good

Jaw-dropping revelations, intense action, fantastic suspense and expert character building.

The Bad

The ‘big reveal’ seemed too fanciful compared to the bleak aggressiveness of the suspense elements of the novel.

The Verdict

An excellent suspense-driven science-fiction novel that leaves you to stumble in the dark, just as terrified as the main character. An impressive off-kilter utopian society and well-rounded characters, with unforgettable scenes and heart-pounding tension.