Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Three by Sarah Lotz #review

Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014

If there’s one thing (of the many) that Sarah Lotz does well, it’s her ability to portray characters using minimal brushstrokes and plenty of wry, black humour, and in The Three, she is in her element.

Presented to readers in the form of a non-fiction account set within a novel, The Three consists mainly of interviews and transcriptions of chats, with some commentary from the “author”. Overall, the narrative comes across more as sensationalised non-fiction that reminds me an awful lot of how Max Brooks approached World War Z.

The bare bones of The Three follows the people and events linked to a fictional disaster known as Black Thursday, when four passenger planes crashed at various sites all around the globe, one of which was the eerie Sea of Trees in Japan (known as a suicide hotspot).

Lotz gloriously mashes up existing horror tropes, society’s fascination with conspiracy theories, religious fanaticism, and possible psychosis then blends in a little media frenzy in her signature discomforting style. No one knows why the planes went down (and there’s ample conjecture) nor does anyone know why there were three (or possibly four) children as sole survivors. Other strange, inexplicable events occur, some seemingly coincidental (or not), but because we are only presented with the limited viewpoints of unreliable narrators, further edited by an unreliable “author” – the character Elspeth – as compiler, we are left with a multiplicity of possible truths, none of which are satisfactory.

And therein lies the rub, and what I feel makes The Three as effective as it is: Lotz leaves readers with more questions than answers, almost guaranteeing in further discussion because opinions on The Three will differ, and differ widely. What remained with me the most was the visceral ugliness that lies just beneath the surface of the individuals portrayed. The true horror of this novel is not so much the possibility of an actual supernatural origin and the constant ooze of brooding menace, but rather the uncompromising darkness of the human condition. We are perfectly capable of generating our own hell – and Lotz has offered us ringside seats.

The follow-up to The Three, Day Four, is due for release in May, and I eagerly await this next instalment. The Three sees Lotz in top form and fully deserving of the praise she received from the grandpappy of contemporary horror – Stephen King himself.

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