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Review: ‘Day Four’ by Sarah Lotz

25054175I enjoyed Sarah Lotz’s first in this horror series, The Three, but was not blown away by it. I did have fun reading it however, and was intrigued enough to want to know how the story would continue. Did Day Four book fulfil that need? No, not particularly. But was it good? Yes, a resounding yes!

I felt that the plot and writing in Day Four was much stronger than it had been in The Three. This could in part be due to the fact that Lotz focuses on writing flowing prose, rather than the found documents approach she took in the last book. As such the characters were believable, they were likeable in their own way, and the reader gets a real sense of dread with what is happening. It left just enough to the imagination to retain suspense all the way through, and is so descriptive that I got a real sense of the sights, sounds, smells and the general claustrophobic feel of the characters’ experiences.

While I felt that Lotz’ documentary style in the first book could have been stronger, I did however miss it in this book. She is obviously a strong writer, and I think keeping the style going over the series would have been a bonus. It was not the style that was difficult in The Three, I just didn’t think the writing was as strong. With the strength of the prose that comes across in Day Four I think it would have been served well with the same documentary style. As a consequence Day Four felt like a completely different book and not at all part of the same series as The Three. Not until the very end did Lotz take on that same found documents approach, and it was absolutely fantastic! In the last few pages it really lived up to the originality of The Three.

As a sequel this novel didn’t do a lot, but standing alone I thought it was a great read. I’ll definitely be looking forward to whatever the next novel in the series will be. I certainly hope there is one, and I hope it ties together the overarching story a bit more.

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Review: ‘The Three’ by Sarah Lotz

The Three

In 2012 four planes crash almost simultaneously leaving three survivors, children dubbed ‘The Three’. How they survived or why no one knows, but the mystery surrounding the crashes on a day the media call ‘Black Thursday’ forces the whole world to question everything as they try to come to terms with a bizarre tragedy on such a large scale involving the four major continents.

The premise of the ‘The Three’ is fascinating, and for the most part I found the style of writing to be brilliant. It has a rocky beginning, with a clunky first person narrative that I found difficult to read, so not the greatest of set ups, but this part is over in a few pages and from there on the writing really comes in to its own. The narrative is presented as a collection of documents, ranging from newspaper reports, voice recordings all the way through to chat room conversations. Each of these come together to help the reader interpret their own version of events with little snippets of information that foreshadow the terrors to come

I enjoyed reading ‘The Three’, and Sarah Lotz really shines in her stylistic interpretation of the ‘non-fiction’ sections of her book. She really brings a reality to the novel, and I often found myself thinking just how plausible some of the situations were. She seems to understand the cultures she is writing about which makes their representation believable, and each culture reacts in a very specific way to the enigma of ‘The Three’.

The novel has very little characterisation as the reader is not given a narrative in any strict sense. Instead we get to know the characters through a very specific sequence of events and their reactions to it. This is the strength of the novel, and I found that when Lotz wrote narrative that’s when my interest dwindled. Her writing style lends itself to the concise. It is such a shame then that she chooses to begin and end her novel with her weakest elements.

The ending of ‘The Three’ was a major disappointment. I have heard people complain about its ambiguity, however I felt that the finale had the opposite problem. So much of Lotz’s novel up to this point had left things open to the reader’s interpretation. This was turned on its head in the final chapter, and I felt disappointed to have a theory spoon fed to me instead of letting my imagination and my interpretation fill in the blanks. There were enough hints given throughout the book for me to draw my own conclusions that the ending just seemed like a let down. On top of this, Lotz once again chose to write in a narrative style which made the entire bulk of the novel seem inconsequential and both the beginning and the end were un-engaging and only adequately written.

All in all I highly enjoyed ‘The Three’ despite its weaknesses, and I will certainly be picking up other novels by Sarah Lotz. It was tense, well crafted, and ultimately an interesting read, let down only by a narratively weak beginning and end.

 

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