Book Review

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three starts with a plane crash in Japan.  There are two survivors – a young boy and Pam, an American visiting her daughter.  Pam manages to record a brief message on her phone before her injuries take their toll.  Her message is a warning:

They’re here… the boy.  The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many… They’re coming for me now.  We’re all going soon.  All of us…. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to-” (1)

We then find out that three other planes have also gone down in different parts of the world – Europe, America and South Africa.  All within a few hours of each other.  And there is a single child survivor from both the European and American crashes.

The media immediately goes into a frenzy, both on the cause of the crashes and the three survivors, dubbed ‘The Three’.  Conspiracy theories and cults abound.  Christians begin talking about Rapture.  Everyone has a view on what happened, even if it’s just that bad things happen.

The novel is epistolary in format, and pulls together various view points from crash scene investigators, the designated guardians of the survivors, their friends etc. in order to establish what happened.  This is a format that I’m a big fan of, and one that I think works particularly well for this kind of novel.  It gives the author a way to gradually build tension, to leave one person’s account at a cliffhanger whilst another story is explored, before returning to it later.  And Lotz uses it to great effect in The Three.

This kind of format, told from multiple perspectives, also allows the author to experiment with different types of document – there are memoirs, transcripts from interviews, conversations from an online messaging system, official reports etc.  I loved that Lotz was able to give each character their own unique voice, and different perspectives based on their own personal experiences and views.  The only potential downside to this is that there are some characters who you keep coming back to, and others that appear and are never heard from again.  I don’t mind this, but I can see that it might put off those who like fully developed characters – there just isn’t the scope for it in a novel like this, where the cast is, out of necessity, huge.

There are several hints from the beginning that things aren’t quite right with the survivors.  Some try to pass this away as PTSD – they have, after all, been through a lot.  There’s the fact that there shouldn’t be any survivors, and why just one from three of the planes?  Is there, in fact, a fourth survivor?  There are so many questions, and it was fascinating to see how the story played out.

I really enjoyed this!  The tension mounts up slowly as new information comes to light, and I thought that the reaction of the media and various camps of believers, conspiracists etc. were realistic.  I’m not sure why it’s classed as horror though.  This read more like sc fi to me, but that’s just my opinion.


(1) Sarah Lotz. 2014. The Three. Hodder and Stoughton.

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