Review: Three by Jay Posey

Three
Jay Posey

Angry Robot
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released July 30, 2013
421 pages
Science Fiction / Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland / Zombies

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The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantel of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

Jay Posey’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel is the best sort of western – a bounty hunter with a soft spot for small children and women in trouble take a sick mother and her five-year-old son on a cross-country trip across post-apocalyptic wasteland all while being hunted by electro-zombies, mind tweakers, souped up muscle men and teenage boys with mommy issues. There is hand-to-hand combat, chase scenes, gun slinging battles, con jobs, and desperate decisions.

In short, Three is awesome and totally unexpected.

Angry Robot continues to amaze me at their roster of under-the-radar science fiction and fantasy novelists, who should be far more recognizable than they are. These are classic story tropes told in new exciting ways that make me a happy reader. This could have easily become a repetitive and tedious jaunt through familiar territory, but Posey uses his background in videogame storytelling to make this a full-throttle action adventure with heart.

Three is a loner by nature, trained in some shadow society that no longer exists, separate from the rest of the world for not being genetically hooked up into the advanced internet that exists inside of everyone’s head. Due to his lack of connectivity, he becomes a bounty hunter, tracking down people for cash. The novel opens with Three dragging a mark in a body bag to a customer, only for us to find later that the assumed dead guy is very much alive. This guy knows what he’s doing and had no ties to the world other than a few scattered friends, who he has sworn to stay away from in order to keep them from any trouble that may follow him.

Then Cass, a drug-addicted tweaker, and her five-year-old son, Wren, cross his path, begging him for help as they run from a shadowy gang of thugs and delinquents who trade in thoughts and breaking peoples’ brains. Cass is trying to get Wren to his father across a vast wasteland filled with zombie-like creatures with glowing blue eyes who can track the neural impulses of everyone that uses the embedded internet in their heads. As the story goes on the zombies and the crew fight to become the biggest threat to this bad of misfit travelers though other threats seem to show up regularly to derail their plans.

It never seems weird that Three follows Cass without much though, saving her and Wren from a dire fate at the hands of Cass’ former gang. He’s just that type of guy – rough on the outside with a gooey cream center that melts at the site of a sweet little boy in trouble. For much of the book it feels very much as though Three is motivated by the fate of Wren with Cass just being along for the journey. Subtly those nuances change and this awkward crew of three become what a nuclear family must look like in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Cass is a bit of a repetitive whiner, spending much of the book fall to pieces due to not having the quint that keeps her strong, powerful and the type of girl who can beat the crap out of four guys twice her size without even blinking. Her fear for her son is authentic, but she doesn’t grow into much of a three dimensional character. She stays the mother figure, the druggie, the runaway rather than a real character, but it’s okay. This is the story of Three and Wren with Cass just a catalyst to bring them together and keep them on the run.

Wren should have been obnoxious, but he’s adorable instead. Precocious and wicked talented with abilities that he doesn’t understand or can control, Wren spends a lot of time crying, but for good reason. His world is scary and for a five-year-old, he is exceedingly brave. His presence in Three’s life brings a breath of humanity to a character that could have otherwise been callous and cold, lacking the humanity that makes him so intriguing to watch. Wren’s growth is enormous throughout the short weeks that take place over the course of the volume, and the questions surrounding him becoming more and more intriguing.

The end is bittersweet and unexpected. Posey kept me on my toes throughout the entire story and left me shocked by the end. He has a visceral bite to his storytelling that enveloped me from beginning to end, causing these characters to wander around inside my head during the more mundane moments of my day. This is addictive, adventuresome writing with memorable characters that I want more of as quickly as possible. Three seems like it just scratches the surface of the world and the characters inside the Legends of the Duskwalker series, and I can’t wait to see how Posey develops it in future volumes. This is a really good contender for one of my top 10 books for the year.

 

I received an advanced copy of this book from Angry Robot in return for an honest review. Thoughts are my own. Angry Robot is awesome.