“Hope can only be offered and snatched away so many times before it becomes a mockery.”
Science Fiction, as a broad genre, has always had a harder edge to its style than its cousin Fantasy. Back in the 80s and 90s it started its love affair with the Hardboiled subgenre, creating Cyberpunk as we know it. For some reason, the thought of an anti-hero has always persisted as likeable, gaining momentum, or perhaps a wrongly perceived momentum, in this modern century.
I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the genre, but I’ve seen a lack of any melding from the Western front. I don’t see the desolate landscape, the drifter archetype, and other staples of the Wild West present in any future-esque sort, save a regression to the Steampunk idea.
Jay Posey’s debut Three accomplishes this with great effect, using the dystopian explosion of the past few years to his benefit. But don’t let that dissuade you; this dystopian isn’t like the regular hackneyed stuff. Truth be told, we aren’t exactly told what caused the downfall. We aren’t told a lot of the history, of the world. And that’s one tick in its favor.
“They were running on a knife’s edge of risk. This wasn’t his way. He was used to working the numbers, knowing the angles, controlling the game. Risking everything, but leaving nothing to chance.”
The novel doesn’t slow down to tell the reader about such and such. That’s not rude. Posey trusts that the reader is smart enough to connect some dots, actually *gasp* play with their imagination. It’s a fun dystopian with a setting all its own. The world is a tough place to survive. It’s beautifully shown in description. It’s marvelous, a land filled with death, chemical dependents, electrical zombies, and people hardwired to the data frame is less-than-scary Matrix thought.
Least, that’s how I saw it. And that’s the beauty of the story. Posey creates a land you build, essentially. While I have no doubt he’s going to expand on the world later on, this debut shows how to make a lean first story, not tripping over the world so many epic fantasy and space opera writers so love to do on their first break through the gate.
Posey creates a quick, sharp read, exactly what is needed in these tomes coming out fresh from newbies at the moment.
“Silence has a way of drawing more out of people than any question ever would.”
Another problem I’ve seen aside from his terse world-building is his writing style. While not to the liking of some, I felt it was a jagged, tense sense of writing. Kept the story moving at a brisk pace. Created a cutting narrative. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, and I can understand why some might dislike it. I, on the other hand, loved it. It was different. Many can’t pull off simplistic writing. YA and classic fantasy works fall into this stereotype many times. But this book performs the small style to perfection.
And that moves me to my next thought. This is an adult read. What I loved, however, was that there was little language, barely any at all. Violence was kept to a minimal till about three-fourths of the way through. His writing stayed tense without unnecessary action. Kinda like true horror. Very commendable.
As to the story, his prologue grips you from the start. It shows the frightened mood of the populace, holds the tension from there. Three has a great, gritty dystopian feel to it, with a MC reminiscent of the Drifter.
But the most important thing I can laud the story for is its characters.
This is by and far a character driven story. Yes, it has a plot. It’s basically an escape story in the vein of Incarceron. But the group of individuals and their relationships is what pushes the thing along.
At its core, we have three main characters. Cass is a mother on the run from her past, a powerful gang that wants her back.
What I would call the reason for this journey is her son, Wren. He receives the most character growth in this novel, which is a large statement seeing as all three of them do to great extent. His parts, while short and far apart, were the most tense. Posey gave Wren a sort of innocence and head strong attitude that’s hard to execute correctly, especially in a six year old. And it was in the interactions with Wren that the story truly blossomed, made the world a brighter place. They were touching scenes.
“Only a child could figure out how to get a foot stuck in shoes that were too big for him.”
But the hero of the story is the title’s namesake, Three. He’s the drifter, the “anti-hero” with more morals than most. He can fight. He can talk his way out of a scrap. He’s a badass and amazing. If ever there was a tough hero who didn’t veer off into dark territory, this is the man.
He’s amazing, simply put.
What was not is the many times Posey uses “just” and “simply.” If I never see those words in the same paragraph again, I will be eternally happy. But that’s just a minor irk, really, in this zombie filled debut. If you like your Science Fiction with a dash of “true” Western ideals, this is the character story you need. Strong debut, one of the best of the year, no doubt.
And I will admit, it made me tear up a little at the end.
*This was given to me as an ARC for my honest review.*
“He set off again wordlessly, silently, a mist of a man dissipating across the jagged asphalt terrain.”