All mutants, zombies, monsters, aliens and other semi-sentient beings aside, the end of the world leaves behind a surprising number of survivors – human survivors. That human detritus makes a surprising recovery regardless of whatever dystopian wasteland they inhabit. In Three, by Jay Posey, it’s the world before its fall that draws the reader in but the remnants of humanity that keeps the pages turning.
Don’t take that to mean the characters are horrible anti-heroes that are practically impossible to relate to for all their flaws and dyspeptic actions. If anything, they are doing the very best they can to survive the wastelands and the horrors found within on a daily basis. Such situations just don’t allow for a world of dichotomies. But when you’re being chased across the ruins of the world like Cass and Wren are in Three, things get a lot more simple.
Survival is the key to success in Three and the main character, also called Three, is a master at doing just that. Three is the classic loner with a mysterious past and an even more mysterious complement of skills – not to mention a plethora of weapons at his disposal – who becomes involved with Cass and Wren for no good reason. If ever there were anyone to play Three in a film it would be a toss-up between a young Clint Eastwood, Blade-era Wesley Snipes, or Karl Urban simply for the gravely stoicism and restrained violence they could bring to the role.
Cass is a different matter altogether. She’s a mother who’s trying to do her best to live with her flaws and her past literally trailing her through the wastelands of Three. Maintaining the moment to keep out of reach of danger while protecting her son, Wren, makes Cass one of the strongest female characters to grace dystopian literature in a while. She isn’t apologetic about her past nor does she regret having a child, instead Cass does everything for her son she can. Cass is never a helpless damsel in distress, but a cornered lioness who is far more ferocious and dangerous than any other person in the story.
What makes Cass more dangerous than Three and the antagonists of Three, the gang RushRuin, is her motivation. Wren, son of Cass, is blessed or potentially cursed with some unique abilities that the leader of RushRuin, Asher, wants and Cass is dedicated to keeping Asher from obtaining. Cass’ maternal drive gives her an edge that Three and Asher don’t have. Each of the men have differing abilities marking them as hazards for others, but without that desperation, that yearning, that need to see Wren safe neither of them could expect to be successful.
Asher and his gang’s, RushRuin, motivation is at best childish. They want something they can’t have – Wren. Yes, Asher may have a better understanding of what Wren is capable of, but the drive for it is never clearly established. Just as the incentive behind Three’s decision to help Wren and his mother is never determined, he simply decides to help. The danger posed to others by these characters is ultimately mitigated by the question – what drives them? Whereas for the Weir, the techno-zombies – think the Husks from Mass Effect – who inhabit the wastelands and wildernesses of the world, are ceaseless killing machines that only come out at night.
The Weir and their unknown origin; the abilities of Wren, Asher, Cass and Three; not to mention the fall of civilization and the ruins left behind, all give Three a post-cyberpunk weird-west vibe. Combining this genre mash-up with the story of escape, Three is an excellent one-off adventure that leaves the reader wanting more of this world and its original characters. Three is the West’s equivalent to a Trigun novel full of tropes and homages to westerns, science fiction, cyberpunk, dystopian fiction and more, wrapped in a tightly written 300+ pages.
Editor’s note: The second book in this Duskwalker series, MORNINGSIDE FALL, will be released April 29, 2014 (US) and 1 May 2014 (UK/AUS–way to go Aussies getting in on this! ). Info on where to purchase Three on Jay’s website.
Check out our recent podcast with fellow Angry Robot Books author, Emma Newman, (Episode 233).