3 Stars - Recommended to fans of non-linear, non-main-character driven fiction
Approx. 14 hours
Publisher: Little, Brown, & Co.
Released: May 2014
Where to start... where to start.
When I requested a copy of the audiobook for review, I did so without fully understanding the style in which the book was written. In hindsight, had I known The Three was a non-linear, non-main-character driven story, composed entirely of conspiracy blog and book excerpts, tweets, emails, texts, and skype interviews, I definitely would have either requested the book in print, or shied away from it completely. I suppose I had expected the book to be something different than what it was.
That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Because I did. Once I got the hang of it - of the way the story was being laid out to us, of how the research was being conducted, of the two audiobook narrators and their ever-changing accents to depict the different characters - I became more comfortable with the format and felt myself, I don't know, sort of relaxing into it and trusting that the narration would make it all come together on its own.
So four planes crash on the same day, in different parts of the world, within hours of each other. The only survivors? Three children, found alive and mostly unharmed, among the wreckage. And the cause behind the crashes? Terrorism was ruled out almost immediately but that didn't stop the world from working itself up into a frenzy. UFO freaks crawled out of the woodwork, blaming aliens. Religious nutters, following the lead of one outspoken rapture fanatic, believe the simultaneous crashes to be the sign of the four horsemen - and they are adamant that a fourth child survivor still wanders out there, undiscovered. Not to mention that those children, once released and sent to live with their guardians, are somehow... different. Changed. They are themselves, but.... not. Is it the trauma of surviving the crash that has affected their personalities so drastically, or something else entirely?
Elspeth Martin, a journalist, has written a book about Black Thursday (the name given to the day of the crashes) and The Three (the name given to the three children survivors), entitled "From Crash to Conspiracy", and it is from this very book, and all of Elspeth's research, that we learn of the events that took place on and around those crashes.
So ultimately, Sarah Lotz's The Three is a book within a book. A fictional book within a fictional book composed of fictional research... I know it sounds clunky but it's actually smartly done.
Some may have a hard time sticking with it in the beginning. The story starts off terribly slow, but that's understandable because there is a lot of set-up that has to take place, so many 'characters' that have to be introduced and outlined - Bobby's grandmother (guardian of the child survivor of the Florida crash); Jess's uncle (guardian of the child survivor of the UK crash); and Hiro's cousin (guardian of the child survivor of the Japan crash), and all of those who have had contact with them; as well as Pastor Len - the man behind the four horsemen and rapture conspiracy, and a handful of his closest followers; along with taxi drivers, on-scene police and emergency personnel, and on and on...
But once the first pass is made, and details of the crash starting coming to light, we start getting to know everyone on a more intimate level, and we begin to learn more about their current situations, their interaction with and concerns regarding the survivors. We being to question their and Elspeth's ability to remain objective and honest with us. Are they sharing all of the facts? What are they hiding? Why does so much of what we're hearing not make sense?
If Sarah Lotz was going for a "scare you so bad you can't sleep at night" creeper of a story, it either (a) didn't come across well in the audiobook or (b) I'm immune to her style of creepy because it really didn't unsettle me in any of the ways some of the other reviewers claimed it had. And there's also the matter of the loosely open ending... one of my pet peeves, especially in a book that hinges itself specifically on the 'hook' factor. I couldn't help feeling kind of cheated right there at the very end.
I definitely would not classify this as a horror story. Though if pressed, I'm not sure what I would actually classify it as. And for anyone considering picking it up, I strongly suggest grabbing it in print.