Review: Snowbound by Blake Crouch

7722061Blake Crouch writes unapologetic, lean, mean, action-packed novels. Dark Matter was a mind-bending roller-coaster; each instalment in his Wayward Pines trilogy was a pulse-pounding tour-de-force. And Snowbound, one of his earlier books, is a breakneck thriller, chock full of action from page one. I devoured it in a single sitting on a warm spring day, and will reserve reading another for a day at the beach, or on a plane, when all I’m looking for is pure escapism.

Snowbound begins when attorney Will Innis’s wife fails to come home from a late night at work, and her car is found on a notorious strip of Arizona highway. There is no sign of her. She is missing, presumed dead. Will, certain the investigating detective will pin his wife’s disappearance on him, absconds with his 11-year-old daughter Devlin, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and for five years they move around, never staying too long in a single location. Then one day there’s a knock at his door, and Kalyn Sharp of the FBI storms into Will and Devlin’s lives. Only she believes Will is innocent; and believes his wife might still be alive. Engaging in an off-the-the-books operation, this unlikely trio seek to unravel the mystery, which concludes with an explosive climax at a remote Alaskan resort.

This is a book loaded with contrivances and ethereal characters. Some of the motivations are suspect, and its plot’s has all the hallmarks of a B-Grade 80s action movie. But set against that is the fact that it’s breathlessly exciting. It’s a page-turner, in the truest sense of the word. Snowbound is a book for the Matthew Reilly fan; the reader who wants a focus on action rather than character. It won’t be to every reader’s taste, but Blake Crouch clearly had a game plan with Snowbound, and he executes it perfectly.

ISBN: 9781481814768
Format: Paperback (229mm x 152mm x 18mm)
Imprint: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publish Date: 19-Jan-2013
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Wayward by Blake Crouch

Wayward Blake Crouch.jpgAt the end of Pines, the first novel in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy, Ethan Burke learned the truth about the seemingly idyllic town of Wayward Pines; the reason why there’s an electrified fence and razor wire surrounding its perimeter; snipers scoping its borders every minute of every day; 24/7 video and tracking surveillance; and why the world beyond can’t be contacted. Burke has been nominated sheriff of the town, and his responsibility is no longer just the safety of his family, but of a little less than 500 townspeople. But do they deserve to know the truth? More importantly, could they handle it?

It’s next to impossible to discuss Wayward without giving away essential plot points, and believe me, you don’t want to know a thing. Suffice to say, this is brilliant second chapter in a trilogy, which doesn’t suffer from typical “midway point” fatigue. Sure, there’s plenty of setting up for the slam-bang third novel, The Last Town, but Wayward is a very satisfying, frenetic thrill ride. This trilogy is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and Blake Crouch is quickly clawing his way onto my list of favourite writers. It’s morally complex, emotive, and just plain unputdownable.

And the cliffhanger – – wow. Where’s my copy of The Last Town? Everything else is on hold until I see how this story ends. I just wish these books were more readily available in Australia. They deserve to sit on every the shelf of every thriller reader.

ISBN: 9781477808702
Format: Paperback (208mm x 137mm x 25mm)
Pages: 322
Imprint: Thomas & Mercer
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publish Date: 17-Sep-2013
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Pines by Blake Crouch

pines-blake-crouch-coverI loved Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter earlier this year, so I made it my mission to seek out more of his work, which lead me to Pines, the first book in the Wayward Pines trilogy. It reads like a crossover between the Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks, but its sheer pace and relentless twists set it firmly apart, and makes the book its only special, unmissable thing. It’s a rollicking, suspenseful, rocket-fast thrill-ride. I’m not waiting another second to read the second book in the series. It’s the next book on my reading stack.

Secret service agent Ethan Burke wakes up in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. Things immediately seem awry. Nobody knows who he is, he can’t get in touch with the outside world, and the behaviour of much of the townsfolk is nonsensical, if not downright hostile; and what’s with the electrified fence that surrounds the town? The closer Burke gets to the truth, the more likely it seems there’s no escape; that Wayward Pines is the town in which he’ll be buried and forgotten.

Pines is the kind of book that’s best read spoiler-free. If you’ve already watched the television series, frankly, I’m not sure how the various twists will impact. But if you go in without knowing where it’s all headed, each dramatic reveal has tremendous impact. Your willingness to suspend some belief and accept the climactic revelation will determine your overall enjoyment — but for me, Blake Crouch knocked it out of the park. He is fast becoming one of my favourite writers.

ISBN: 9781612183954
Format: Paperback (208mm x 137mm x 25mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Thomas & Mercer
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publish Date: 21-Aug-2012
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

9781447297574.jpgBrace yourself, dear reader. You’re about to be assailed with praise and hyperbole for Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, which, at this moment, is on track to be my favourite thriller of the year. Right now, I can’t imagine anything toppling Dark Matter from its throne.

Dark Matter is an unabashed science fiction thriller. If the thought of multi-dimension travel – of our protagonist traversing alternate worlds – is too much of a leap from the grounded reality in which you prefer your fiction, okay, fair enough, perhaps this one’s not for you. But for everybody else, willing and able to suspend their disbelief, and accept the parameters of Crouch’s fiction, Dark Matter is a relentless and thrilling ride. What glues it together – what makes this novel work – is its heart. Dark Matter is a love story – punctuated with action and science fiction elements, certainly – but its romantic core, one man’s desire to reunite with his wife and son, is what makes the novel tick along.

Dark Matter is about the roads not taken. It’s about the choices we make – those large, momentous decisions we identify as important, and the smaller ones we barely recognise. Jason Dessen chose his family over his career as a physicist; so too his wife Daniela, who gave up her dream of being an artist. It’s not a decision they regret – they’re a content family unit, blessed with a teenage son – but inevitably there are moments when they wonder what might have been. And thanks to the Jason Dessen from an alternate reality – a world in which he focused on his career in science rather than his family, and created a multidimensional travel device – our Jason is about to discover what might’ve been.

Crouch sends Dessen to a range of close-but-not quite realities as he attempts to find his journey home, to his wife, to his son. In putting Dessen through such an emotional rollercoaster we bear witness to some truly gut-wrenching and poignant scenes. And just when you think the novel’s demonstrated all it’s got to offer – that Crouch is leading readers down a thrilling, but somewhat routine path as Dessen attempts to return to his world – he throws a curveball; an unforeseen plot twist that raises the states even higher, and propels the narrative through to its fitting climax.

Plenty of fiction has explored the idea of multidimensional travel, but rather than focus on the science, Dark Matter keeps the reader riveted because of its heart. How far is one man willing to go to reunite with his family? How much can he witness before he loses himself? You’ll tear through Dark Matter in one sitting to find out. Truly, it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years.

ISBN: 9781447297574
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x 25mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Macmillan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 28-Jul-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom