I hate flying. I hate flying so much that I must be proper wasted before I even get on the plane. On the flight to Comic-Con back in 2012, the flight attendant quipped, “Double-fisting it today, huh?” after I ordered two drinks for myself. It was about 10 a.m. I’d been drunk since 9 a.m. You would think that I would have avoided Sarah Lotz’s horror novel The Three at all costs, right?
Reading the description of The Three I’m surprised I was so intrigued. Horror stories told in book or movie form don’t really do anything for me if the scariest elements are children, and I already talked about my aversion to flying. I guess it was that dark cover art that did it for me, and I guess I also wanted to know what the children who survived these horrific plane crashes were all about. So I proceeded, and spent many a night up way too late reading it.
Four different flights go down in different parts of the world. Planes crashed off the coast of Portugal (or thereabouts), Florida, Japan (near the notorious Aokigahara suicide forest), and South Africa. Three children manage to survive, two boys and a girl, and they are hailed as miracle children by most everyone, especially by those who were first responders or investigators at the varying crash sites.
As the dead from the Japanese plane crash are rounded up, and the injured tended to, voice messages from the passengers are shared with the media, but it only takes one from the sole American on the flight, Pamela May Donald, to set off an irrevocable course of events that will have long-lasting effects. The Three begins from Donald’s point-of-view, but after it follows a book within a book format, complete with blog posts, interviews, emails, and first hand accounts that are reminiscent of Max Brooks’ World War Z.
It’s easy to be horrified or in awe, depending on your point of view, by the children. What stands out the most, however, is how easy it is to whip people into a frenzy with charlatans and megalomaniacs leading the charge. The events in the book, minus the weird children and their agenda (whatever that might be), could very well happen in real life. Some would argue they’re happening as we speak, or have already happened. That’s what takes The Three to the next level. Lotz melds very real horrors with paranormal ones which keeps the reader engrossed and on the edge. If I had to classify this book, I would say it’s The X-Files with a dash of Village of the Damned (1960), with hints of H.P. Lovecraft, which isn’t surprising considering her pedigree as a writer.
The character development wasn’t as all-encompassing as you would probably expect, but that actually works in a way. There’s just enough for you to get an idea about the characters via the aforementioned interviews within the book. There’s no need to go to in-depth developing characters whose life stories don’t do anything to enhance the narrative in the book.
My only gripe with the book is the ending. It doesn’t end neatly. Perhaps there will be a sequel, which would totally mitigate the conclusion (and make me very happy). Still, I found myself frustrated because while it ends well, a slightly open conclusion is frustrating for me barring news of sequel. I certainly hope there is.
If you’re looking for something that will keep the chills coming, The Three is a must-read.