Author: Jay Posey
Publication Date: July 30, 2013 (Angry Robot – North America)
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, AWESOME, zombies, dystopian, biopunk, cyberpunk, coming of age,
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars! A really, really fun post-apocalyptic biopunk/biohacking adventure!
Review: “Three” is just what I’ve been waiting for in the realm of the dystopian urban fantasy subgenre of adult literature. It has everything I’ve been craving – biopunk, biohacking, cyberpunk, a bleak post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting, journeys, and more. More than that, it has some of the most awesome fight scenes that I’ve read within the subgenre in recent memory. If you want something fresh and new and reads like a kick to the face, “Three” is definitely a book you should check out.
Also, did I mention it has zombies? Yes. It has zombies – but like nothing I’ve ever read. The Weir – electric, cyber-like zombies, who have blue eyes (felt like there was a bit of a “Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones” reference there), and who hunt at night, screaming electronic shrieks to each other in order to catch their prey. This bit really caught my attention, and confirmed to me how skilled Posey is not only in his use of sensory language and imagery (more on that in a bit), but how original his ideas are within this genre. Or rather, how he makes all of the typical parts of this subgenre his own. It blew me away, combined with everything else in this book.
The worldbuilding: mostly using sensory language and imagery, along with his main cast’s individual backstories, Posey builds his world very well. While we don’t get a good, solid explanation as to why the world itself has ended up the way it’s portrayed in this book (general society broken down, people in individual city-states trying to survive the Weir, people born with the automatic ability to access satellites through “pimming”, general biohacking called “boosting”, and more), we do get hints through the main cast’s individual backstories. Like Three himself – his backstory is pivotal to explaining an important chunk of this book, and I won’t explain how or why, but it makes it all the more unique. We don’t get an explanation of the Falling from his story, either, but it still makes for awesome reading. The sensory language and imagery – there’s no doubt that Posey is someone to definitely watch as a rising star with this debut. My favorite parts of the book were with the biohacked people (the man who installed lightbulbs under his skin to light his veins so if you cut him, it made it look as if he bled light was my absolute favorite), but generally, he writes gorgeously in a way that just makes you sigh. There’s almost a sense of magical realism there, even though there really isn’t in the book as a whole.
There are quite a few tropes that Posey reconstructs in this book to make his own: the lone assassin/protector, the little chosen boy, the journey to a place to either keep him safe or give him power, those that want to stop him. All of these tropes fit in with each other marvelously, and miraculously, the Tolkien-esque journey didn’t bother me. There was a lot of walking, but – authors, take note – it was punctuated with a lot of fighting, and a lot of Weir attacks. Now THAT’s how you keep things fresh. I loved how Posey was able to viscerally create these attacks out of nowhere, as well as the fight scenes, and the general wrongness that you feel when the Weir are near. Through the attacks and how they react we also find out that the Weir aren’t like any kind of zombie that we’ve seen before – they can be brought back. They’re not rotted – it seems like their own electric biology heals them enough to attack people once they “reboot” as Weir – and they don’t want your brains, they just want to kill you. I won’t say who or how this happens in the book, but it does, and they earn the title of First of the Awakened. I can’t wait to find out more about how the Weir came about along with the fall of Society, along with the impotence of the State, and how wonders like the chosen boy came about. Natural evolution, or nurtured biohacking that eventually got passed down along the familial bloodline? We’re given both as coy choices as to how this chosen boy has his abilities, but we’re not given a solid answer. And usually this would drive me mad, but it just worked. I can’t explain it otherwise.
Finally, the characters. Posey builds a very compelling and sympathetic main cast, even with these redesigned tropes. We find out just enough about each character to go on, and eventually through interaction with more of the minor bits of the main cast, we find out more about their individual backstories and how they relate – also known as the relationship web school of worldbuilding. Three, our MC, is sparse and spartan in how he works, moves, and lives, and we’re given just as much information as those character traits allow. I rather found this fascinating, the way that the traits of each character tied into how much information/backstory we got from them, and how we had to find out through interaction with other characters, and I found I really liked it. More authors should definitely do it. Also, there’s a shout out to “Inception” with the RushRuin group, though I think that RushRuin does a hell of a lot more damage than any of the “Inception” crew could ever have done. I hope we get more on them in the next book, as well.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for something deliciously fresh within this subgenre, definitely check out “Three”. It’s out now from Angry Robot in North America, so give it a read when you get the chance! Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far.