Oh…this is SOOO terrible of me…. I have a backlog of 200+ ARC books to read. This book, Three, by Jay Posey was the oldest book in my queue. Because it’s the first in a series and the second book has just been released, I thought I’d better get to this. I clearly recall two thoughts as I took a look at this book before I began to read. Thought number one: “‘Three?’ That doesn’t tell me ANYthing.” Thought number two: “Oh, no…not another cloaked man book!” After all…it does seem that there is an abundance of books lately in which the cover features an ‘Assassins Creed’-type figure … shoulders and head, with the face in deep shadow. (Apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed this! See here.) I was so afraid of getting in to an average book.
Now I have another two thoughts. Thought number one: I know better than to judge a book by its cover, especially an Angry Robot book. Thought number two: This is anything but an average book. This is brilliant.
** WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD **
From the very first page, I was hooked. Like with so many of my favorite books and authors, we are dumped in to the middle of a story, left to discover and learn on the move. Three, it turns out, is the name of our protagonist. A man who travels in a frontier land in what may be our own dystopian future, or possibly another world altogether, and does so when others fear to do so. It is never made entirely, outright clear what world this is, and it doesn’t matter … the world itself is well-defined by Posey. We catch glimpses, suggesting it’s our future, but it’s slightly more comforting to hope that this is some entirely alien, fantasy world.
One of the first clues that we are in our own future is the idea that most people are wired in to a common mainframe. Connecting, at will, to a variety of useful tools. but connecting means that others can track you as well. Among Three’s many and varied abilities is the fact that he is among the rare few who are not connected, giving him an added ability to remain in the shadows.
Our book starts with Three looking to collect the bounty on bringing in a wanted man. Wanting the full reward in ‘hard’ rather than through credits, Three has to wait around for the sum to be collected. It is while waiting that Three meets Cass and her young son, Wren. A meeting that will change the course of his life. Cass and Wren are on the run, and despite all his typical instincts, Three protects them from imminent danger and takes them with him across the land, venturing outside city limits at night, when no one, understanding the dangers would ever think to do so. At night the Weir are out. The Weir appear to be a modified form of zombie, still wired, and actually glowing in their eyes with some sort of current. They hunt like wild dogs. Three manages to protect Cass and Wren and it is clear that Three has taken it on to see them to safety, even though it slowly becomes clear that Cass and Wren are not just runaways from a hard life. Wren, in particular, seems to have powers that even Three can’t fathom.
The book is an adventure through a devastating world filled with evil and kindness, and Three is our tour-guide. Despite his power and lack of emotion even when taking a life, Three and his friends represent the best of what the world still has the potential to become. His very name implies the Christianity trinity, though if a biblical parallel were to be made, he is much more a John the Baptist than the Savior. Those Three confronts and battles, from the Weir to Ash’s men (it is Ash who wants Cass and Wren), represent the evil in the world. Ours as well as Three’s world.
Despite the constant mystery, or perhaps very much BECAUSE of the constant mystery (Where are we? What is this world? Who are these people? Who are the Weir?), we read on to know more and to follow our leader, trusting that he will ultimately take us someplace safe, just as Cass and Wren trust and hope. Author Jay Posey works this masterfully. He unfolds the story before us, gently revealing layer upon layer — a bit of literary origami. Not just for us, the reader, but for the characters as well. Cass reveals more and more about herself and Wren just as she is learning the same things that we are learning about Three and his environment. And Three admits, at just the same time that we also would recognize that:
“(Three) sensed it, back on that afternoon when she’d walked out of the bar, and he’d followed; he knew deep down that somehow this was the decision that was going to get him killed. … But he was done sitting around, waiting for it to show up. “
In addition to his skill at revealing a story, Posey’s ability to succinctly capture the awe and majesty of a ravished nature and the varied personas of the human race is incredible.
“Then the three stood together on a little shelf of soft gray dust, and the weight of the history of a world gone wrong settled on them with all the gravity and terrible awe of a cataclysm.”
This is both beautiful and haunting, which could easily describe the story as well.
This is book one of a series, and while it is clear that there is more to be told, this is a complete book. You could read this, get a fantastic story, never read another book in the series and not feel cheated out of a story. But why would anyone want to do that? I’m so entranced with the language and the world and the people who I want to visit again, despite the dangers ahead.
This is the best book I’ve read this year.
Looking for a good book? If you’ll trust the journey, and the guide, you won’t regret reading Three by Jay Posey; this is a positive look at a dystopian future.
* * * * * *
author: Jay Posey
series: Legends of the Dustwalker #1
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 421 pages