The Three – Sarah Lotz
“They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to–“
-The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 – 2012)
Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.
There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged.
And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone.
A message that will change the world.
The message is a warning.
There have been numerous raving reviews popping up all over the internet these last few weeks and rightly so, because boy, what a special book this is. Was it the best book I’ve ever read? Not necessarily. I’m even reluctant to say that it will be the best book I’ll read or have read so far this year, as so many already have. But I think it’s only fair to say that this is one of the most eerily suspenseful and special books I’ve read. It will definitely be a hit, it’s a page-turner, a book that gives you so many questions and submerges you in this sort of scary mystery that sends shivers down your spine. For me this experience was even heightened because at the time I was reading this book the Malaysian plane went missing and ‘till now they haven’t even found any wreckage yet.
Not only the story makes this book so special, it’s also the way it was written. It has a composition that is similar to that of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’. It’s a book inside a book (aside from the prologue and epilogue). We’re reading a book written by Elspeth Martin, a journalist who has gathered all sorts of interviews, chat message transcripts, voice recordings and her own experiences into an account of the tragedy and its aftermath. The people giving testimonies or that are featured in the book are mostly family, friends, neighbours of the Three, the three children that are the only survivors of the plane crashes, and rescue workers or people directly involved with the plane crashes. No one really knows how the three children were able to survive and pretty soon all sorts of conspiracy theories begin to emerge: from “They’re aliens” to “They’re 3 of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse as was predicted by the Bible”. This is all fuelled by a message that one of the victims, Pamela May Donald, left just before she died:
“They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to…”
She was a devote Catholic and the pastor from her church community, to whom she addressed the message, takes it as a warning and starts spreading fear and dread. Pretty soon the whole situation escalates.
The prologue is not part of Elspeth’s book, but shows us Pamela’s experiences when the plane starts to get in trouble and after it has crashed. Starting the book this way… it gave me goose bumps. Lotz brought across the panic, the desperation and the fear so well, it’ll probably give me shudders the next time I enter a plane. What Pamela sees right after the crash and just before she dies sets the mood for the rest of the story. Were it just the delusions of a dying woman or was it something more? Something real?
The direct aftermath of the crashes was quite horrifying to read. We switch from continent to continent and read testimonies from people who saw it happening, who were in the vicinity, rescue workers searching for survivors or people waiting for their families to get home. The chaos, the panic, the horror, the disbelief, the fear, the pain and sadness, it all creeps under your skin. It feels like you’re in the middle of it all.
Some of the characters return several times in the book. They are mostly the family of The Three, taking care of them and dealing with the press attention. The one that stands out here is Paul. He lost his twin brother and his wife and their daughter on one of the planes. Their other daughter, Jess, survives and Paul becomes her guardian. He is one of the first to think there is maybe actually something wrong with Jess because she has changed significantly after the crash. Reading Paul’s interviews and later on the voice recordings he makes, are quite heartbreaking and also really, really creepy sometimes. In between these family testimonies, there are some others that are quite disturbing. They’re mostly about The Three and how certain people saw/experienced weird things about them. This only leaves the reader guessing even more. Is it all the imagination of individuals who want sensation, do they only see what they want to see? Or is it true?
The story of another one of The Three, a Japanese child, is depicted through transcripts of chat messages sent between the niece of the boy and the guy that’s in love with her. This gives a very special angle gives us yet another means of experiencing the story.
What I always kept in the back of my head is that this is a subjective view of the events. Everything here is edited and put together by Elspeth Martin. Did she stay true to her sources or does she just want fame by sensationalizing the story?
The last part of the book is… I honestly don’t have any words for it. It’s horrifying, it’s eerie, it makes your head spin and it made me cling to the book like my life depended on it.
I couldn’t put this book down, once you start it’s impossible to stop. If you want to read something out of the ordinary, an apocalyptic book that gives you this sense of dread and sends shivers down your spine, then this is the book for you.