Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Three, by Sarah Lotz



Do me a favour. Next time you’re in your local bookshop, go and check out the Horror section. What’s that you say? Your local bookshop doesn’t have a horror section? Okay, well, never mind. Even if it did, chances are it would be filled with nothing more frightening than a bunch of sparkly vampire lotharios, some shambling, post-apocalyptic zomboloids, and a pack of cuddly, maladjusted werewolves. Yawn.

As someone whose formative reading years were spent having the living shit scared out of him by Horror heavyweights such as Stephen King, James Herbert, and Clive Barker, to name but a few, it saddens me that the genre has fallen into neglect. I yearn for the days when I could walk into a bookshop, head over to the Horror section, and browse the shelves in search of the latest trouser-browning titles.

That’s not to say there are no great contemporary Horror writers out there. Adam Nevill has written some of the most frightening stories I have ever read. The Ritual starts off as a straight-up Man-Versus-Nature story, before unfolding into something altogether more terrifying. And his Banquet for the Damned is one of the few books I have read as an adult that left me truly scared of the dark.

John Hornor Jacobs gave us Southern Gods. A Bram Stoker Award nominated masterpiece, it’s a dark, menacing tale set in America’s Deep South. Jacobs serves up an ending so disturbing, it will leave you numb with shock for days. Shit, I still get the shivers just thinking about it.

Sadly, books such as these come along once in a blue moon. So, as you can imagine, I’m always on the lookout for The Next Great Horror Novel.

Which brings me to The Three, by Sarah Lotz.

After reading many gushing pre-release reviews, one in particular proclaiming it "the finest piece of horror I've ever read," my hopes were understandably high. So keen was I to read it, I tried to blag an ARC from the publisher. But seeing as my blog had one little lonely review on it, they passed, telling me I needed to review more books before I'd be considered for an ARC.

So I waited.
  
When the release date finally came round I was midway through a mildly tedious epic fantasy in which the magicians snorted gunpowder and said ‘pit’ instead of ‘fuck’. Needless to say, I dropped that baby the moment The Three landed on my Kindle.

I wish I hadn’t bothered. What a waste of time.

The Three opens well, with four plane crashes happening almost simultaneously across the globe. The only survivors are three spooky children. The fact that these children have survived is nothing short of miraculous. The author drops some tantalising hints about what we might be dealing with—is it terrorism, government conspiracy, aliens, or could it even be the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse? But then the pace slows to a virtual standstill while the author drones on and on and on for hundreds of pages while virtually nothing happens. All the interesting stuff happens off-page, and we hear about it in the form of news articles and twitter feeds, tedious, after-the-fact interviews, and instant messaging transcripts.

I'm sure Lotz thought she was being terribly clever with all of this, but to me, she spent too much time focusing on how the story should be told, rather than the story itself.

In some respects the book was a success, because, well, I finished it. But it was a chore, and I only did so in the hope that everything would come fizzing into life for the final stages.

It didn't.

There was no payoff. No big reveal. I still don’t know if it was terrorists or aliens or the Four Bleedin' Horsemen who brought those planes down. For all I know, it was none of the above.  

Overall, a big, steaming pile of over-hyped meh.

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