By Lane Baker
Published on: July 16, 2019
A science fiction tale where a college student tries to figure out why children are going missing at a summer camp.
Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pastures, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish – only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.
When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature may play a role in the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with camera, journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery shrouded among the camp’s TWISTED PINES.
The prologue opens at an amusement park. A young boy is having the time of his life with his father doing all the games and rides, except for the fact that a creepy stranger is staring at the boy and following him around. Eventually, the stranger finds the boy alone where all he wants is to give the boy a hand written message. The boy is understandably a bit confused and puts the note in his pocket.
After the amusement park, the main story switches to a very different location – a summer camp for kids. The main character of the story is a college student named Abe. Abe is enrolled in Film school at UCLA, but needs a break and decides to interview and joins the Mendocino Pastures in California. Mendocino is a very rustic camp where you sleep in tents during the summer instead of cabins, where you work and are assigned chores, such as milking cows or chopping wood. But the camp also has a lot of fun activities, such as archery, horseback riding and games such as capture the flag. It is playing this game when the first child disappears. Soon after, other children and an adult disappear. Then when some other oddities begin occurring Abe decides to investigate and see where it leads him.
Twisted Pines is a story in the science fiction genre and includes elements of time travel, advanced robotics, and a future that leans toward apocalyptic.
Overall, I like the premise of the story. Children going missing always adds suspense to a story. But when the children return and with no memory of what occurred during their absence – that’s when the mystery and intrigue really comes in to play. The location of the story was a nice choice. The camp is away from civilization, which helps add to the atmosphere, but also potentially provides a lot of opportunity to use the landscape to the story’s advantage. Although I liked the premise, I did feel the story was uneven at times in terms of plot and pace. This was most especially noticeable for me during the day-to-day activities of the camp when the focus was away from the mystery of the missing children. And although a good portion of the story focuses on those who are at the camp, especially the camp counselors, I found myself wanting their personalities and stories to shine through a bit more.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Thanks to the author for providing a reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.