The Three

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The Three,  Sarah Lotz, book reviewI get a lot of advance proof copies of books in my role as Curious Book Fans reviewer. Most are quite plainly presented; simpler, often smaller, versions of the book they will become when finally unleashed upon the market. When I therefore received a custom black jiffy bag from Hodder containing a glossily produced black book and a press release folded into an origami aeroplane, I suspected I might just have been sent something due for a very big release. Something that Hodder is wasting no expense on promoting, as they expect it to make a significant impact on the bestseller lists. Having just finished said book – Sarah Lotz’s The Three – I think that they might just be right; if this book isn’t huge by the end of the year, then I will be quietly amazed.

Pamela May Donald is a middle-aged Texan embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Despite the doubts of her husband Jim, she decides to travel to Japan alone to visit their daughter, who she hasn’t seen for nearly two years. She has made it to Japan without too much trouble, but as the internal Sun Air flight takes off for the final stage of her journey, it soon becomes apparent that things are not at all right; the plane shakes and rumbles, and oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, before the pilot barks over the intercom that they need to brace for impact. The plane ploughs into the lonely Aokigahara forest near Mount Fuji, a long way from any place a rescue attempt might be launched from. Pamela wakes briefly and surveys the scene of devastation around her, and, realising that she is going to die before any help arrives, takes out her phone (which has also miraculously survived) to record a final message. A message that will change the world forever when it is heard.

On 12th January 2012, the Sun Air crash makes headlines around the world, but isn’t the only aviation disaster that day. On a day that will become forever known as Black Thursday, three other flights crashed at almost exactly the same time – a plane full of British holidaymakers returning from Tenerife plummets into the sea off Portugal; a flight from Florida to New York comes down in the Everglades, and a Nigerian aircraft crashes into a crowded part of Cape Town after apparently being unable to reach the airport. Thousands of people die in these events, but it soon emerges that in three of the four crashes there is a sole survivor: a child. Rumours quickly spread about whether a fourth child could have survived in South Africa, and bounty hunters flock to Cape Town in search of them. The global media doesn’t take long to dub these children The Three and speculates endlessly about their survival. Are they aliens, signs from God, or just incredibly lucky? Miracles, or signs of impending apocalypse?

The Three is a book that is easy to praise but quite difficult to review. Presented as a non-fiction account of Black Thursday written three years after the event by an Elspeth Martins, we are not given a traditional piece of storytelling. Lotz has written in a journalistic style, presenting short chapters as interviews with key players in the events, news articles, blogs and forum chats, mixing up approaches, sources and perspectives so we see things as a media consumer within the world the events happened in, rather than as a person to whom a narrator is commentating.

Put like that, you might well think that this would be a book that keeps you at arm’s length from the characters and diminishes the reading experience, but I found the text compulsive reading. Each character keeps their own distinctive voice, and the variations between people in different countries suggest a good deal of background research was undertaken. The well-structured compilation of these disparate parts cumulates into a unified, coherent whole that allows you more perspectives on what happened that if we just saw things through one or two people’s viewpoint. It allows the text to show global events in a way that we are used to consuming them online, in rolling TV news and in the papers – the only difference is that these events are fictional.

This was a book that I read greedily and enjoyed immensely. Put 22nd May 2014 in your diaries as the day that you can get hold of The Three and read it for yourself – you won’t want to miss it.

Highly recommended.

The Three by Sarah Lotz
Published by Hodder, May 2014
With thanks to the publishers for providing me with this review copy.


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Three, The
by Sarah Lotz

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Written by collingwood21
collingwood21

Collingwood21 is a 32 year old university administrator and ex-pat northerner living down south. Married. Over-educated. Loves books, history, archaeology and writing.

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