Book Review: The Three

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...


I have heard a lot of advanced praise about The Three earlier this year and I really wanted to check out this book for myself. I never read the whole synopsis only the words on the back four plain crashes, three survivors. Just with these words you can let your mind play part with what you might be able to expect in this story but with what I was presented with completely caught me by surprise, saying this in a very positive way. I am always in for a good horror/thriller story and this is exactly what Sarah Lotz embodies in The Three, exploring doom scenarios in the most dark possible way. Sarah Lotz an screenwriter and makes up for one half of the writer duo S.L Grey, the other half is Louis Greenberg. Sarah Lotz also writes YA fiction with her daughter.

The first thing that I would have expected to see in The Three would be to follow the individual stories of the three children that survived the plane crashes. However soon you learn that the narration is done in the from of a book, From Crash to Conspiracy, by the writer Elspeth Martins. She is the writer of a book that described everything that is related to Black Thursday (the day that the four planes crashed). Elspeth tells how everything went down right down until the gruesome details and how the eventual conspiracy theories got spread along the population. I have to say that I was very impressed with this way of narration. It isn't the standard run of the mill story telling and somehow inspires a much bigger feeling towards the whole story. Though a lot is being told from Elspeth's point of view, and not everything is objective, what you might come expect with such a high impact case that shook the world, personal opinions are bound to make an appearance. Next to Elspeth's personal views, she uses a lot of correspondence with people who were either directly involved in plane crashes or friends of them. I found that on the whole, showing passages of the book to tell the story one unique experience to read. And lets not forget the dark tone that Elspeth book inspires, it one that will get you goosebumps on your arms. Perhaps not on the first pages but as the story continues it only takes on a much much darker tone. 

The story of The Three focuses focuses firstly on 4 plane crashes that took place right after each other. These plane crashes took place in the US, South Africa, Japan and the UK and the Thursday went into the history books as Black Thursday. From these horrible crashes only 3 survivors emerged, all children. How they were able to survive remains something of an enigma. How could these children have survived such an accident? Soon you see that a lot of opinions become divided. The children are being taken care of by close relatives and family and they want to see the children just being able to live a normal life after all that they had to go through. On the other side you have the emergence of various conspiracy theories. Raging from the children being aliens, as other people witnessed unexplainable lights when the planes went down, down to theories such as that the children are the harbinger of the apocalypse, the horseman of the apocalypse. This later part, what the nature is of the children and how they can be explained is really what drives the story forward, and along the way like I mentioned above you get to see the point of view of many people. 

Even though The Three is a story within a story told by Elspeth Martines, you still can clearly see that there are some major characters in the story. The ones that have a main focus on them are mostly the caretakers of the surviving children, like I already mentioned above, you don't really get to see what the children are thinking, these events are related to you by the people that surround them. Several characters that stand out are Paul Craddock who takes care of the Jessica Craddock who survived the UK crash, Lillian Small who takes care of Bobby Small who survived the US accident and finally Ryu and Chiyoko, Chiyoko's parents take care of Hiro Yanagida from the Japan accident. Each of these three characters have a distinct narration. Paul and Jessica's is being told from an autobiographic kind of way in a present tense. In these part Paul makes up for an interesting character, he hasn't had an easy life and now taking care of Jessica doesn't make it any easier at all. Jessica is all exerting a strange influence on Paul and this makes him slowly start to doubt himself and this is clearly noticeable in his story as he is starting to loose control of himself. Not knowing what to think anymore, is Jessica really an embodiment of evil? Next up is the the story of Bobby and Lillian. Lillian is told in a first person narration soon you learn that Lillian isn't the mother of Bobby but the grandmother. Lillian takes in Bobby and treats him in the best way, she just wants a normal life for her grandson. But the media seems to want it differently. Lillian is constantly protecting Bobby. Where the relation between Jessica and Paul becomes strenuous, this isn't the case for Lillian and Bobby, they seem to grow more and more together, even more so when things start to happen to Reuben. Reuben is the husband of Lillian and suffers from Alzheimer, being around Bobby seems to help him to get back his memory and other functions. What is so special about Bobby? Last but not least there is the story of Hiro told by Ryu and Chiyoko. I found this one to be the most interesting. Ryu and Chiyoko's story is related to you by forum posts and IM's though they are short and to the point they hold a lot of information to help to bring the story further. Everything that happens in their storyline really helps to build Hiro's character as the most interesting one for me. Hiro also has an influence on the people surrounding him, but in a different way again as the other two. Also what really freaked me out in Hiro's part was the surrogate robots... And Hiro mentioned something when he was rescued from the plane crash, that when you read it in the end really freaked me out. 

OK, above describes only one part of the story. Next to the "personal" stories of the children, there is one other half to the story of The Three. The part wherein the origin, cause and effect of the children Jessica, Bobby and Hiro are being explored. I already mentioned above what the general population things but the biggest "hype" surrounding them is that they are the harbingers of the apocalypse, the four horsemen (though they lack one). I must say that first off I didn't think much about this hypothesis, and actually thought they were very lucky children. Sarah Lotz writes the whole conspiracy theory of them being the children of Doom in a utterly engaging and evocative way that is really on par with how such a theory is called into life. Ranging from a over zealous priest slowly gathering a crowd and trying to send out his message over first nation wide and then internationally. Finally until everyone you can no longer think about anything else. Even going as far as getting people convinced that they are soldiers of God acting in favor of God but actually doing what the priest says, for me such a thing, which closely resembled religious movements we see in real life does add a terrifying sense to the story. As I already mentioned Sarah Lotz shows her conspiracy theories in a very realistic, dangerous and terrifying way. 

The story of The Three only picks up pace as the book progresses and you are readily pulled from the first page into the book. I was so engaged that when I neared the ending of the book, the final plot twist,  I dropped the book out of my hands. I just sat around on my couch staring at the wall. All along the story you are led to believe certain facts about the children and I wanted just to accepts that they were normal children, wanting to restart their lives and live it just as any normal child should, all the media attention can't work for their better. But Sarah Lotz really drops a bomb in the end. I WASN'T expecting THAT to happen, I tweeted that words fall short to describe the ending of The Three and even now a few days I still can´t come to word just what kind of emotions went through me when I read the ending. It awed me and still is... perfect creepy stuff, especially when Hiro again relates his text when he was rescued. 

With The Three, Sarah Lotz has created on of the best Horror/Thriller stories that I have read so far. From idea down to execution this is just the perfect story to give you a terrific scare. On the first premise it might seem that everything is ordinary about the children, only that they were the lucky few able to survive such a horrible crash but this soon turns out to be some different. I am very impressed with how Sarah Lotz played around with human emotions in her story and this only helped to let the "impending doom" sense of the story resonate even stronger. When you get down to the ending of THe Three I think that everyone will be surprised by it. I was. It's one of those things that hits you hard on the right place. Sarah Lotz has just written the perfect horror story. This will be undoubtedly one of the best horror stories published in 2014. And luckily this is only the first, Hodder and Stoughton have announced that they will publish more stories of Sarah Lotz! The Three is out May 22nd. Make sure you don't miss this book.

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