Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
No. of Pages: 480
Origins: Little, Brown, and Company
Release Date: 20 May 2014
Bottom Line: Fantastic thriller that keeps you guessing
“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 behavioral 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 behavior becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…”
Thoughts: The Three is the type of novel which is difficult to categorize. It is suspenseful and futuristic in some aspects. It creeps towards a dystopian model as those touting the coming apocalypse gain traction and become more powerful. Yet, one could easily construe the last few scenes as nothing but pure horror. There are lines interspersed throughout the narrative that leave a reader with chills at their eeriness, and yet, how one interprets them is completely up to each reader, his or her belief system, and/or ability to suspend disbelief. It is this last aspect which is another fascinating aspect about the book. Someone with an evangelical belief system will have a much different opinion about the book and about the Three than someone with no set beliefs than someone who subscribes to every conspiracy theory out there. The Three incorporates aspects from all believers and from all scoffers so that it is truly a book that will be different for each and every reader.
One of the fascinating things about The Three, in a novel in which there are many fascinating things, is the fact that Ms. Lotz wrote two novels, as The Three is a novel within a novel. More accurately, it is an exposé within a novel. Within the narrative lies the full-length version of From Crash to Conspiracy by Elspeth Martins, an investigative reporter who gains insight into the tragedy through eyewitness testimony, transcripts, interviews, and other media stories ranging from social media to newspaper articles and more. The intention of From Crash to Conspiracy is to pull together all of the facts and allow readers to separate the wheat from the chaff and make up their own mind about the Three and the meaning, if any, behind their miraculous survival. However, as one reads these so-called facts as presented by Elspeth and then reads what follows, the story takes an unexpected turn that is quite literally a game-changer. A reader must all but reexamine Elspeth’s entire book and view it in light of this new information in order to determine the truth. However, that truth is still deliciously ambiguous and will generate much discussion among fans as the summer progresses.
The writing within The Three is outstanding. Ms. Lotz uses all types of writing for both the “non-fictional” From Crash to Conspiracy as well as for the surrounding narrative, and she is effective in each type. One gets a feel for each interviewee’s language, personality, age, and other quirks. This is quite a feat when the interviewees cross the globe, cross generations, and cross socio-economic milieus. Not only that, one also gets a clear understanding of each interviewee’s motivation in participating in Elspeth’s novel. In addition, that which each interviewee does not say becomes just as clear as what he or she does say. She not only keeps each voice separate and distinct, she transforms each character beyond the one-dimensional interviewee into a fully-developed person with hidden agendas and motives. Similarly, while suspense builds naturally from the very first scene, she keeps adding to it with each new piece of information she reveals. The final result is a novel consisting of multiple, well-developed characters that keeps readers glued to their seats as they race to finish this heart-pounding thriller.
At times utterly terrifying, The Three is completely haunting and will have many a person thinking twice about getting on an airplane. It also raises the question as to the true scope of influence in today’s media, something increasingly important as the media infiltrates every aspect of today’s life. The story itself is extremely compelling and surprisingly plausible, and the characters are all too realistically flawed. That they are so realistic serves the purpose of muddying the waters of truth even more than they already are, something fans of ambiguous endings will thoroughly enjoy. Yet, she leaves enough concrete facts for those who want a more defined ending. Because of its universal appeal and the amazing writing, there is no doubt that The Three is going to be one of the hottest books of the summer.