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....
"Lotz is a ferociously imaginative storyteller whose twisty plots will kick the stairs out from under you. She's a talent to watch." - Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls
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The Three is like many books in the horror/suspense genre. Its premise and character development are much stronger than the plot. As a result, the conclusion of the book feels unsatisfying relative to the investment made by the reader/listener. I think this book would be much stronger had the author figured out a way to deliver her "make you wonder" conclusion within the construct of a single narrative style. Most of the novel is spent within a book-inside-a-book done in the recounting style of World War Z. The very beginning and very end are spent in standard third-person narration. This shift is distracting and makes the ending feel a bit more like a letdown.
The underlying question of the novel is "who or what are the Three?" The conclusion is intended to leave you going "whoa" or "what the!?!" Instead, I found myself going "meh". I do not want to spoil the ending, so it is difficult to elaborate. I believe the author's intent with the ending is to make you rethink various clues throughout the novel. Fair enough. I enjoy books that try to do this. But it is a little annoying with this book because the punchline does not really answer the underlying question. And the punchline is simply not strong enough to make you want to reflect back upon the nuances of the story.
I was unfamiliar with the work of the narrators. They both did an excellent job.
The Three draws you in with its premise and character development. My feelings about this novel are similar to my feelings about many of Stephen King's books -- the plot and conclusion were a bit of a letdown. Like King, I think Ms Lotz could easily hit a home run with a future novel.
There is an interesting commentary in the background of this book about the potential for the Christian Right to gain control of the US government such that the American republic is radically reshaped. I think the book could have gone in a very interesting direction by exploring this idea in more detail.