Have you ever read a book and thought, “Okay, it’s about to get good” and then find that you’ve finished the book and it never really got around to being all that good? Well, I just finished Sarah Lotz’s novel The Three and I feel like I just wasted three days and 500 pages worth of my life on a book that never got around to being as good as it was promising to be.
The premise is intriguing; in the novel’s 2012, a catastrophe occurs when four planes crash within an hour of each other on four different continents, leaving four survivors: three children (one each from three of the four crashes), and one woman who lives only long enough to leave a message on her phone that, although entirely vague, fuels a conspiracy theory that goes on to affect the entire world. The story is a book within the book written by a journalist who compiles an array of first-hand accounts of plane crash witnesses, EMT’s/disaster relief team members, investigators, family members of the deceased, and survivor caregivers. Although a myriad of conspiracy theories follow the surviving children, better know as “The Three,” much of the story is focused on a delusional church leader who insists that The Three are living signs of Armageddon.
I have to emphasize the fact that this book was highly interesting and kept me riveted throughout the reading! When Brice would ask about my progress (from my stories about it, he already asked to read it when I’m finished; I wonder whether he’d still want to if he read this post…?), I’d say, “It’s very interesting! I can tell something good is coming; I just wish it would hurry up and happen!” So I read, and read, and it stayed interesting, and then it sort of surprised me for about a millisecond, and then it went back to interesting, and then it was over. I spent the entire time anticipating some crazy outcome (because believe me, Lotz spends a lot of time priming the reader and implying that craziness is on the horizon) and then was disappointed when the ending left me feeling as though nothing was answered or resolved. It seems to me as though Lotz spent plenty of time doing her research, thinking of very interesting characters and first-hand accounts, and building on those characters to encourage empathy or unease in the reader; where she fell short, for me, was the climax and resolution. Like I said, from her buildup, I was anticipating something bizarre, spooky, otherworldly, whatever. I would’ve gladly accepted any of those things. I just wanted her to give it to me straight. Lotz left everything open-ended, though, and I’m not even slightly sure what she intended for those children to represent. I knew that something was amok throughout the book, but I’m no closer than you to understanding what that might have been. It reminds me of that recent Indiana Jones movie that climaxed to reveal that aliens were the bad guys, and the world was furious; hey, at least they picked something and stuck with it! I will accept your ridiculous alien story, Indiana Jones franchise, because I now see that some sort of resolution is better than none. Sarah Lotz left me with none.
In summation, I guess I’d say people should read it. Maybe? I doubt I’ll discourage anyone from reading it because, as I said, it was interesting as all get out, but be aware that you’ll likely finish and be left with nothing but a puzzled look on your face. Expect to read and re-read the final few pages and to understand it no more the fifth time than you did the first. A WORD TO THE WISE: this book includes vivid detail of multiple plane crashes, from the point of view of a temporary survivor, pilots, voice messages of the deceased, and those who cleaned up the wreckage. If you are even slightly uneasy about the ability of tons of metal to stay afloat thousands of miles up in the air, I don’t suggest you read this. If you don’t like descriptions of death, don’t read this. If you are thinking of becoming a flight attendant or EMT, read at your own risk. But again, it was riveting and I don’t regret having this one under my belt.