The Three by Sarah Lotz
Four simultaneous plane crashes. Three child survivors. A religious fanatic who insists the three are harbingers of the apocalypse. What if he’s right?
The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. With terrorist attacks and environmental factors ruled out, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.
Dubbed ‘The Three’ by the international press, the children all exhibit disturbing behavioural problems, presumably caused by the horror they lived through and the unrelenting press attention. This attention becomes more than just intrusive when a rapture cult led by a charismatic evangelical minister insists that the survivors are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. The Three are forced to go into hiding, but as the children’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…
It’s the bane of a reviewer (well, this particular reviewer at least) – so many books, so little time. When The Three was originally released back in 2014 it almost completely passed me by. I heard lots of good buzz, but other commitments meant I missed out. Now I’m glad to say that I’ve rectified that gross oversight and have finally arrived at the party. Fashionably late, I have no doubt, but better late than never.
Regular readers of the site are familiar with my penchant for all things apocalyptic. I just can’t get enough of the end of the world. The premise of The Three appealed to me straight away. When the final words of a fellow passenger are revealed to an unsuspecting world, almost immediately a dozen conflicting conspiracy theories pop into existence. Why did four planes crash on the same day? Why did three children survive when everyone else was lost? What does this mean for the rest of humanity? Are The Three incredibly lucky, touched by the divine, or the harbingers of the End Times?
The character I found myself most interested in was an actor called Paul Craddock. He finds himself thrust into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The direct impact one of the crashes has on his life is completely devastating. In his case, fame appears to be more of a curse than a blessing, and watching his already fragile mental state unravel is riveting stuff.
I don’t often comment on the technical structure of books, but The Three is bloody clever. Put together like a book within a book, similar to World War Z, the narrative is made up of research material taken from multiple sources. It allows the plot to be explored using multiple differing perspectives of the events. Rather than being confusing or jarring, this approach works perfectly and you get a real sense of divided opinion when it comes to people’s interpretation of what the three survivor’s actually are.
Lotz has crafted one hell of a story, and not just in the main narrative. There are some supplemental themes explored that are just as engrossing. One of the elements I found particularly interesting involves the creation of creepily realistic androids that are almost indistinguishable from humans. In one of those weird moments of synchronicity, I read this article shortly after finishing The Three. Sheesh, talk about spookily appropriate timing.
The book ends with a suitably brain-melting denouement. I was left with that delicious need to learn more about what was going on. It is always impressive when a writer has such skill when it comes to playing around with ambiguity. Put it this way, I would fully expect that you could ask a dozen people to read this book, and then if you asked them what was going on, you would get a dozen different responses.
How best to clarify The Three? Well, this certainly isn’t some all out gore fest. Don’t get me wrong, there are a plethora of creepy moments but they tend to be more mentally than physically horrific. Put simply, this is subtle psychological horror at its finest.
The Three is published by Hodder and is available now. My advice is buy it. This will be a purchase that you will not regret. I enjoyed The Three so much I’ll be reading the sequel, Day Four, next. I don’t just want to know what happens next, I NEED TO KNOW!!