The Three – Sarah Lotz

About the Book

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.

480 pages (Hardcover)
Published on May 20, 2014
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Horror is a genre I struggle with. The things that are supposed to scare me, don’t. I never really jump and scream. Books don’t keep me up at night unless they are too good to put down. I don’t have nightmares. I don’t feel scared. In a genre that I read to feel scared, the not-feeling-scared thing is a huge letdown, so I just don’t do it.

Except, however, for those books that aren’t scary in the slasher-movie way, but scary because they get into your psyche and weird you out in profound ways. My health education background makes books dealing with diseases, the contracting and spreading of them, and the annihilation of societies absolutely soul-jarring, and thus, scary.

But it’s a different kind of scary, because epidemics could happen. People will have to react to said epidemic, and the believability of those plots hooks me and really twists me in the ways I like horror to twist me.

The Three is one of those kinds of horror books. Things don’t jump out and say, “Boo!” However, things happen, and slowly twist, and the dark plot gets darker and darker, and more psychological as it progresses. Furthermore, The Three takes place all over the world, with focus in many major world cultures. That’s both refreshing, but also unique. Most horror books I read are located in one specific area. Readers never really find out what’s happening in the rest of the world. Lotz obviously decided that the world is a big place, so it’s time for someone (her) to show just how psychological and global an incident could be. Everyone is effected, not just a group of people in (insert country/geographical location here).

The Three does have some speculative aspects, but by and large, the “creepy” part of the plot is the plane crashes themselves, and the things that unfold after the planes have crashed. Yes, some rather beyond-reality things happen, but the human dynamic is creepy enough. The Three is absolutely human in so many ways. The cultures are real and obviously well researched. The world is ours, but Lotz really worked hard to make it believable in the context of the events that transpire. She takes advantage of social media, and instant news. The global sharing of information is both a positive quality for those impacted by what happens, and a negative in the fact that it helps events and understandings spiral before people even realize they’ve spiraled.

All in all, the world was absolutely incredible, and the research that went into crafting it, and all the real world cultures, boggles my mind.

It’s the way the story is told that really got my attention instantly. This isn’t really told from any one person’s perspective, nor any two people’s perspectives. In respect to the globalization and instant information point I made above, Lotz capitalizes on it ten fold by making news the way she tells the story.  This book is told from bits and pieces of interviews, news articles, conversations, eye witness reports, internet conversations in chatrooms and whatever else you can possibly think of. There aren’t any main points of view, so readers don’t really get too engaged with any one person. You’d think that’s a bad thing, but in reality, it just made this book so much more fascinating. It was so incredibly thought provoking and interesting to see how the people who aren’t really directly involved in a situation, but are somewhere outside of direct events (and usually aren’t even related to each other), can compile one cohesive, interesting, and believable story.

However, this adds to another import aspect of Lotz’s book. Have you ever played the game Telephone? You whisper a word or sentence and it is whispered down a line of kids, by the time it’s at the end of the line, the word/sentence has changed in unbelievable ways. There’s some doubt about what was first said, and what the word/phrase ended up as.

Well, that’s also a huge part of Lotz’s book. The way she tells the story keeps readers wondering just how much of the outsider’s information and perspectives are actually true, and how much has been changed and altered by time, misunderstandings, and whatever other human conditions typically warp stories. It’s really well done, and adds a dark and uncertain note to a story that is already so unique, so human, and so dark and delicious.

The plot moves really fast, and it will take readers almost no time at all to get used to this absolutely captivating way of telling a story. The Three is equal parts creepy and genius. I was absolutely captivated by it. This is an absolutely human book. It’s raw, and real, and believable. The research that went into it is staggering. The writing is fluid and perfect. The developments are surprising. The characters, the incident, the impact it had on the world, kept me engaged because it felt so real to me. This isn’t just some book about some obscure thing that happened somewhere. This is a book that felt like it was happening to me right now. Furthermore, The Three is shockingly thought provoking for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the way Lotz chose to tell the story.

Basically, what I’m getting at, is this book blew me away. I couldn’t stop reading it. I still can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t really like horror books, but this is an example of horror done right.

Wow. Just wow.


5/5 stars

5 Responses

  • Information control is not a trope that’s used a lot in horror…iat least not the horror I read. ts interesting that Lotz uses it here.

    Thanks Sarah

  • I’ve heard very few negative reviews of this book, and the ones that re positive pretty much say the same thing that you did: it was amazing! I really wish I’d been able to get a review copy of it. I’m not typically a horror fan either, and there are very few exceptions to that rule, but I really think this is one that I could enjoy, given everything I’ve been hearing about it.

    I might have to buy a copy as a birthday present to myself. :p

    • I can see where it could be hit or miss. The unique story telling might put off some readers. Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

  • I love that she made it global too. I’m getting increasingly annoyed with books that never look outside the US (or occasionally, the UK) even though they’re about events that affect the whole world. But in The Three the horror comes partly from the fact that Black Thursday and the Three are global concerns. Also, as a South African I particularly liked the SA accounts – Lotz really captured some of the class issues and nuances of local dialogue.

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