Three by Jay Posey
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: July 30 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
In a word: One of the best examples of world building I’ve seen in quite some time, gorgeously written, with a finely paced plot and characters that will break your heart.
Once in a while, a book comes along that deserves more than five stars. These special few are awarded my Crystal Chandelier Award of Awesome! Three is only the second book to receive this award…so far!
Overpasses stacked ten high lay inert, arteries of a city embalmed. The wind was light but weighty with the falling autumn, like the hand of a blacksmith gently laid.
Could you please read the above quote and tell me you aren’t dying to read Three right now?! I can’t believe this is Jay Posey’s first novel. Everything about Three is polished and honed as sharp as a knife blade. Posey has created an unusual dystopian world that feels completely unfamiliar, and yet there are glimpses of familiar things that have been turned inside out and re-imagined. Like many other books of its kind, humans have banded together and locked themselves behind walls in order to keep the monsters at bay. In this case, the “monsters” are called the Weir, large humanoid creatures with electric blue eyes and the strength to tear a man to pieces. So far it feels familiar, right? But Three’s resemblance to other dystopians ends there. Posey’s unique future includes people who are “plugged in” to a datastream, “chemics” who use drugs that give them super-strength and speed, and “brainhackers,” individuals with the ability to retrieve information from someone’s brain.
But Three has more than just cool futuristic elements. It is filled with complicated characters who have unexpected emotional ties to each other. Posey takes emotional angst to a whole new level with his relationships, and I guarantee you will fall in love with these characters. Add in a dangerous escape across a barren landscape and writing that is more like poetry than prose in some cases, and you have a combination that will be irresistible to discerning readers.
Three is a bounty hunter that mostly keeps to himself, bringing in bounty (both dead and alive) for Hard (cash) during the daylight hours when the Weir stay hidden. But one day he runs into a woman and her son who are clearly in trouble. Cass and Wren are on the run from someone, and Three reluctantly agrees to help them. But Cass has some dangerous people looking for her, and Three doesn’t realize until too late that he’s gotten himself into a heap of trouble.
As Three leads them outside of the safety of the Enclave and across the dangerous Strand, they will face not only the terrifying Weir who stalk the night looking for victims, but some monsters of the human variety who are just as treacherous. Three must use all his wits, and then some, to get Cass and Wren to safety before either threat can find them.
One of the things I appreciated most about Three (and believe me, there are many!) is the way the author doesn’t explain anything about the set-up of this story. Posey throws us right into the action and simply lets us figure things out as we go. Strange terms like “chemic” and “nerve-rig” are never explained so much as used in context. With the author’s wonderful prose as the backdrop, this strange and wonderful story begins to emerge. Now, I know drugs are bad, but some of my favorite books lately have used drugs as a key story element, including Three. Cass is a chemic, a human with a special implant that allows her to dose herself quickly with a drug called quint. Yes, she is an addict, but when you finally figure out why she’s using quint you’ll feel better about the whole drug thing. Her addiction also makes her vulnerable and I loved her all the more for it. Even though Cass seems to be weak at the beginning of the story, she eventually morphs into a kick-ass heroine.
There were so many characters that I loved, including Three. He’s quite the mystery man and Posey doles out clues about his back story slowly. He’s the reluctant hero, and he reminded me a bit of Kevin Costner’s character in Waterworld. He finds it almost impossible to leave Cass and Wren alone, because he knows the men and women who are chasing them are bad. I loved the way the two eventually worm their way into his heart, even if he’s not too thrilled about it. I expected Three and Cass to fall for each other, but Posey allows this to happen in such an excruciatingly slow way that it was completely believable.
In Posey’s world, cities are in ruin and civilization has collapsed, yet futuristic technology still exists. I loved the juxtaposition of the gray and dust-filled landscape with the idea of people being able to access a GPS system in their heads. There are also unfamiliar techy weapons, like laser guns; yet one of Three’s most cherished possessions is an old-fashioned pistol that only has six bullets when the story begins. (Bullets are very hard to come by.) Every time the pistol was fired brought Three closer and closer to not having any bullets left at all.
Many of the mysteries of Three are not revealed by the end of the book, which was frustrating in some ways, but made me anxious to read the next book even more. Who exactly are the Weir? Why do they have glowing blue eyes? And what is the mystery behind “shipping”? I hope to find these answers in the next book, but if Posey chooses to draw things out, well, that’s fine too. I’ll go anywhere he wants to take me, as long as he keeps writing like this. You are in for a treat, my friends. Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ from the finished version.
Angry Robot is giving away two signed copies of Three during the Three blog tour! My tour stop is this Thursday August 8th, so make sure and come back and read my interview with Jay! And you can enter to win your very own copy of Three!