Day Four by Sarah Lotz
Four planes. Three survivors. One message. It seemed like the end of the world… but it wasn’t. This, however, just might be.
Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water. With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait.
That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic. There’s a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer… and maybe something worse.
Last week I read The Three and it just about blew my tiny little mind. I love writing with an apocalyptic flavour, and The Three delivered that in spades. Within minutes of finishing the final page, I had already picked up its sequel and had jumped straight in. Day Four builds on the delightfully dark premise of The Three and takes the reader to the next level.
Where The Three is primarily focussed on the aftermath of an event and its continuing fallout, Day Four is more interested in tracking characters as the primary event unfolds. Chapters flick between different characters and their perspectives. Everyone starts seeing things. From the officers on the bridge and the guests in first class, right down to the ship’s cleaners and security staff, all are affected by the strange phenomena.
Becalmed and completely isolated from the outside world, it doesn’t take long for divisions to start forming between the different groups on-board ship. The crew are as bewildered as everyone else, and it is only a matter of time before they start to put their own well-being before that of their charges. Petty jealousies and squabbles start to simmer just under the surface, and with every new day the unnerving sense of panic becomes that little bit harder to bear.
The narrative has a wonderfully claustrophobic feel that grows with each passing chapter. The vast majority of the plot takes place on the ship and those close confines really start to mess with the characters perceptions. There is little better than horror like this that makes your skin crawl. Watching normal people slowly crack under the strain of extraordinary events is fascinating stuff.
The best thing about Day Four, and its predecessor, is that the author doesn’t fully commit to explaining everything. There is a delicious current of ambiguity present in both novels. Just exactly what the hell is going on? Is this a massive global conspiracy, something spookily supernatural, divine intervention or a huge cosmic joke? I honestly don’t know, and the best part is that most of me doesn’t even care. The journey that Lotz takes the reader on is worth the price of admission alone. Each new chapter ramps up the tension and the realisation finally dawns that the scope of events is growing at an exponential rate. The further you read, the stronger the suggestion that this story is building to something mind bogglingly big.
Don’t get me wrong though, slowly but surely details are being revealed. It’s just the case that the whole picture isn’t entirely clear yet. I tell you what, there had better be another damn book in this series. If there isn’t there will be trouble. A tall, mildly-myopic Scotsman crying is not a pretty sight people, and I can one hundred per cent guarantee that no one wants to see it.
Day Four is beautifully creepy, often disturbing and entirely entertaining. If I was forced to choose I think I would favour this book over The Three. Why? Mostly because it does such an expert job of building on the existing narrative created by its predecessor. Lotz’ writing builds skillfully on the mythology she previously revealed, but still manages to keep the reader guessing. I love when an author plays with the reader’s expectations and keeps you on your toes. I didn’t think it could be possible, but if anything, Day Four gets even darker than The Three. The final chapters are so very, very good. Bleak doesn’t even begin to cover it.
After reading The Three, I realised I can effectively rule out ever travelling by air again. Day Four cements the concern that cruise liners should also be added to my big old bumper list of places to avoid. Please do me a favour Ms. Lotz, promise me that whatever happens next it doesn’t involve trains. I like trains; I find them relaxing.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, couldn’t be more simple – read The Three, then read Day Four. Once done, wait patiently for whatever Sarah Lotz does next. Based on the first two novels in this series, I suspect what will come next will be something truly exceptional.
Day Four is published by Hodder and is available from 21st May. Highly recommended. This is hands down one of the best things I’ve read so far in 2015.