Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

The Rule of Three
Eric Walters

Farrar Straus Giroux
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Releases January 21, 2014
405 pages
YA / Action / Post-Apocalypse

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One shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function. Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighborhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.

Eric Walters has made me paranoid. I am constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the inevitable disaster that will leave humankind helpless and devolving into animals. I feel inclined to horde guns and canned goods, barricade my windows and doors, and start stock piling gasoline in my garage (which can’t be safe). Eric Walters may have just ruined my life. It will never be the same. Thanks for that.

The Rule of Three is a bit of an odd little book. It’s the days and weeks following some sort of EMP or computer virus that knocks out all the power and computers in the world, and the events that follow within a small community. It follows 16-year-old Adam, son of the local police commissioner and novice pilot, through the not-so-every-day moments after a life-as-we-know-it level disaster. Luckily he lives next door to a slightly eccentric elderly man, who Adam assumes used to be a spy and is quite the survivalist, stockpiling supplies, food, chlorine tablets, and grenades just in case.

The first two thirds of the book is boring on paper, yet completely captivating in execution. Walters has a way to make the mundane oddly intriguing with a subtle hit that something awful could happen just on the next page. The slow devolution of society as fear and confusion get the better of people sets the scene as Adam’s community does whatever it takes to protect itself. It’s nearly 300 pages of building walls, neighborhood council meetings, sentry duty, and farming. This shouldn’t be so engrossing and yet the way Walters frames these otherwise menial tasks – integrating the occasional moment of suspense between the day to day – made it difficult for me to put the book down.

Then he introduces people outside Adam’s community in the final third and things go from slow walk through the post-apocalyptic suburban park to OH DEAR GOD THEY’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! That building suspense creeping up on me throughout the book explodes into chaos and confusion, both for the characters and for me as the reader. What had been an insular story of survival becomes something bigger, more serious and really kicked in that whole “must stock pile guns!” attitude I’ve been wandering around with since finishing this book.

After a series of events, growing progressively bigger and more summer action movie-esque, the book just stops. It’s difficult to tell if this is the momentary calm before the storm or just because Walter didn’t want to give his readers a heart attack before book two could come out. Either way, any issues with slow pacing at the beginning I may have had (and there really weren’t any) were completely knocked out by the final 100 pages as putting the book down became down right impossible.

The Rule of Three is too realistic for my own personal comfort, but amazingly perfect as a palate cleanser within a dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre that’s getting overcrowded and repetitive. Adam’s voice stays true to that of a 16-year-old boy witnessing the seemingly impossible while doing his best to cling to the few normal things remaining. Walters confirmed on Twitter that the next book starts off 10 seconds after the end of this one and I can’t wait to see what chaos awaits Adam and his neighborhood next.


I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.