Otherwise known as The One Where It Gets Grim, although I also think of it as The One Where It Starts to Go Off the Rails (I had to rethink my titles after finishing the last installment).
I’m not opposed to off the rails, particularly when Wallace has spent so much time building the world. It was just… surprising, although in retrospect, maybe it shouldn’t have been. Maybe I keep trying to reframe his world as a ‘normal’ modern world with the hidden world of the supernatural, when he’s actually just postulating that a lot of the strange things that happen in real life are the result of supernatural strangeness (I mean, it makes a sort of sense. Is there any other reason for the glamour of certain figures? Or the addictiveness of fast-food chicken?) But this one levels up, presenting a new angle on… Guantanamo Bay. Smartly, Wallace doesn’t play this for laughs as much as horror. I appreciated that; all political views aside, there’s something about an unlimited detainment center that deserves antipathy, not laughs.
The plot is tighter than others, and the split narratives of the teams comes together faster (amazing how that works, isn’t it?). The joking interactions of the catering crew have slipped into something more focused as they realize they’re finally out of the frying pan… only to land in the fire. I thought the tone and narrative shifts were well done, though perhaps unexpected. In considering the books as an overall story, though, it works perfectly. A solid installment in the series.