Three by Jay Posey is both one of the most intense books I’ve read this year as well as one of the smartest. It feels in some ways like a Kurosawa film where you’re thrown into the action and you discover the world as you meet the characters- only set in an apocalyptic future overrun with monstrous Weirs and the cadaverous remnants of civilization. I love how Posey paints the world with grim poise, a prose that is as visceral as it is evocative. There’s a cinematic scope in the narrative that is as hard-edged as the main character, Three, letting you feel the society and its decrepit depravity rather than spoonfeeding you end of world tropes with pontifications on humanity. Posey’s narrative choices are gutsy as he focuses on the journey, letting you bask in the world. The main journey revolves around Three protecting a mother, Cass, and her child, Wren (whose name happens to be the name of one of my favorite Phantasy Star characters). There’s one line that captures Three’s terseness, practicality, and morbid humor where he gives Cass a weapon during a weir attack and says: “Don’t be afraid to use it. Hate to die with ammo left.”
The weir are both terrifying and intriguing. “This one was almost indistinguishable from a human except for its blue-glow electric eyes humming in the darkness. It was fully clothed, fully featured. Not the gaunt corpse-like creatures from before. But no less deadly, he guessed… It didn’t make any noise. No static burst squawk. It just crouched there, in darkness, watching.”
And later, it’s explained: “…when directed, they are capable of…things beyond your imagining. No mind of their own, of course. But with my mind…”
There’s a lot of questions that remain, but that’s in line with the world they live in. People in everyday life don’t suddenly go off on long-winding exposition about what happened in 19XX that led to the current status of worldly affairs. Those who inhabit that society know why it’s that way. Same as the world of Three. There were times I did not like the mother, Cass, adding to the authentic feel of a world that doesn’t just have some weak but likable damsel in distress. The hero often sees things the audience might not, like a keener understanding of the people and why the dark circumstances could shape someone in a certain way. In that sense, I had a deeper appreciation for both Three and Cass.
In line with the high stakes presented in this bleak future, the ending was shocking and caught me by surprise. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it, but I was pretty devastated by the end, though it does make the setup perfect for book 2 and 3. I can’t wait to dive in to the next two based on how riveted I was by the first one. I do hope his name foreshadows his circumstances will get better by book Three. =)