First published back in May of 2014, South African author Sarah Lotz’s novel ‘The Three’ formed the author’s first solo offering without having been co-written with another fellow author.

DLS Synopsis:
The 12th January 2012 would forever be known as Black Thursday.  It was the day that four commuter planes went down within hours of each other, resulting in the deaths of over a thousand people.  But it was no act of terrorism, although explanations were vague and hard to find.

And then it was revealed that there were three survivors:-

On the Go! Go! Airlines Flight 277 from Tenerife, six-year-old Jessica Craddock walked away from the crash with only minor cuts and burns.

A Boeing 747-400D, which was operated by the Japanese domestic carrier Sun Air, plummeted into the foot of Mount Fuji.  The sole survivor of this Sun Air Flight 678 was the young Japanese boy Hiro Yanagida.

Similarly, a Maiden Airlines McDonald Douglas MD-80 plane went down in the Florida Everglades minutes after its take-off.  Miraculously, six-year-old passenger Bobby Small was found to be alive and unharmed from the disaster.

However after searching the aftermath of the Antonov cargo and passenger plane that had been leased by Nigerian carrier Dalu Air and subsequently crashed into the heart of Khayelitsha – Cape Town’s most popular township – there were reportedly no survivors.

Now, in the wake of such a devastating series of plane crashes, the world is left reeling from the implications of such an unlikely chain of events.  Furthermore, in the face of such utter devastation, the question on everyone’s mind was how could anyone have survived any of the crashes?  Let alone three similarly aged children?  Each one having been the sole survivor on their flights.

For Paul Craddock, the loss of his twin brother on Flight 277 was traumatic enough.  When he finds out that his young niece survived, Paul instantly puts himself forward to become Jessica’s new carer.  However, as the days go by, Paul finds he is unable to connect with his now incredibly quiet and well-behaved niece.  And at night he is plagued by a recurring nightmare which haunt his waking hours.  Something is wrong here.  Something feels very out of place.

Elsewhere, Pastor Len Vorhees of Sannah County has formulated a theory which he believes to be the reasoning for the plane crashes and the young survivors on each.  And if he’s right, the world will be nearing the end of its days…

DLS Review:
Written as a faux non-fiction book entitled ‘Black Thursday: From Crash To Conspiracy’ by (the fabricated) author Elspeth Martins, Sarah Lotz’s cleverly constructed tale is built up through an array of incredibly convincing mediums and sources, which when put together, suggest a terrifying picture of something beyond tragic coincidence.

The ‘book’ is built up from ten chapters (plus an extended afterward) which gradually plots the revelations and responses in the wake of the four plane crashes.  Lotz (or should I say Elspeth Martins?) uses interviews and correspondence with a number of key individuals to fabricate the events that follow.  Each one of these has their very own response, each one is dealing with their own personal demons, and each one has their own part to play in how this piecemeal story progresses.

This stitching together of reports, interviews, correspondence and pages from internet chatrooms, creates a disturbingly realistic vibe to the progressing story.  Indeed, it’s hard not to become swallowed up by the cunningly fabricated delivery of the tale – with so much fine attention to the various intricate details injected into all formats utilised, that it’s hard not to become totally submerged in the narrative behind it all.

And at the heart of the tale is a creep story that’s half-way between an apocalyptic sci-fi-cum-horror story and a dark psychological thriller with a gritty religious bearing – something akin to James Herbert’s ‘Shrine’ (1983) crossed with ‘The Survivor’ (1976) with a David Koresh/Jonestown Massacre  vibe to it.

The end result is a dark and increasingly unnerving tale.  Furthermore, the various complexities to the story, in particular with the numerous characters and narratives involved, make for a surprisingly thought-provoking read.  

The sheer originality and absolute attention to detail that is evident across the entirety of the novel makes ‘The Three’ one of those rare offerings that instantly breaks the mould.  The story itself is inspired and bursting with potential, and with such a well-executed delivery, the tale becomes something far greater than its parts.

This is very possibly one of the finest mixed-genre novels of 2014.  It’s a tale that will keep you up at night.  It’s a dark and unnerving story that is nigh-on impossible to put down.  And it’s one that will more-than-likely lodge itself at the back of your mind for years to come.

The novel runs for a total of 469 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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