35. THE THREE, BY SARAH LOTZ
This book wasn't recommended to me, I bought it because I liked the concept. And, yes, it was a good idea, but I don't think it was particularly well delivered.
Synopsis: Four plane crashes happen at almost the same time in four different parts of the world. Three children are the only survivors, sparking a worldwide discussion of the accidents. After a while, a woman writes a "non-fiction" book containing personal accounts, interviews, and investigations on them.
Overall enjoyment: It fell short of what I expected. For starters, this was marketed as a horror book. If it is, then it's the most boring and less horrifying horror book I've ever read. I've been told this is the same idea behind World War Z (which I haven't read), writing a non-fictional book about fictional happenings, and I'm not sure if I like it; but I don't think the problem I have is with the format, specifically. I just think it could have been much better done.
Plot: A bit thin and distributed sparingly in the accounts that make up the book. There's so much that doesn't matter at all, though. That was a big part of the problem. It feels like the entire book was just backstory. That kind of thing sometimes works for non-fiction books, but that's because everybody knows what has happened, so backstory on the people is what you really want. In this case, you have to try and piece together the plot among endless pieces of useless information.
Characters: There is no emotional connection with any of them. The "personal accounts" do not feel real at all, they feel like one person trying to pretend to be many different stereotypes. There are many characters that have no influence in the story at all, and there's no space to develop any of them. I suppose the reason why there are so many (unnecessary) characters, and why their stories are so haphazardly put together is to reinforce the idea that this is a collection of interviews, but it doesn't really work. Publishers tell non-fiction writers to pick a very small group of characters (whose stories are essential and intertwined) and tell their stories for a reason; if this were a non-fiction book, it would have been a bad one.
World/setting: In this particular case, the faults of this book acted in her favor. There is no intricate explanation of the setting, you are supposed to gleam it from the accounts. Because of that, there are no inconsistencies, and anything that is poorly justified can be explained as an over-simplification for the book. Still, the otaku internet culture in her world seems remarkably well-behaved, with Chiyoko being instantly accepted because she is a girl (instead of hostilised, called a fake, and shunned) and everybody rushing to help Ryu, and not one of them calling him a pathetic loser and telling him to kill himself.
Writing style: All telling, no showing. Of course, it would be difficult to show and not tell in this format, but it could have been done, and I do reserve to myself the right to expect good writing. Also, when she writes the different first-person accounts, she adopts strange speech patterns which I assume are designed to sound like different characters. That would have been a good idea, but she keeps enough of her own speech patterns to make it clear that it's the same person writing, and some of those quirks are so ridiculous and exaggerated it seems she's making a mockery of the type of character she's trying to portray.
Representation: One of the characters who narrate the story is a gay man and the fictional author is a gay woman. For black people, though, the representation is very poor: there is only one woman who *might* be black among the narrators; and the child from the crash in Africa is brushed off as unimportant. There are a few Japanese characters.
Political correctness: She's trying to criticize the tendency of religious groups (especially in America) to try and turn religious morals into law. It's a valid point, and something that truly scares me. It's also one of the most well done parts of the book.
Up next: Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb