ONLINE SUMMARY: Twenty-five-year-old Anna is ready to give up on living in a post-apocalyptic world where unchecked sickness and slaughter have killed off her childhood tribe, family, and best friend. But when Anna unexpectedly interrupts an attack on a beautiful woman lounging by a lake, she is drawn into the relationship of two other survivors of the sickness: young, idealistic Elin, who welcomes Anna into their makeshift family with open arms, and Elin’s lover, the older, more jaded Kael, whose dark and brooding nature initially keeps Anna at bay.
The threesome journeys south for the winter season but is beset by accidents, relationship strain, and an attack upon Elin by a group of religious fanatics who believe that a woman’s duty in the post-apocalyptic world is to bear children and repopulate the earth. Kael and Anna’s fragile connection will be tested repeatedly. Will they find a way to work together to save the woman they both love?
Intense, exciting, and sexually provocative, The Three is one book you do not want to miss.
MY REVIEW: Having read and very much enjoyed a couple of novels by Meghan O’Brien some time ago I figured it was way past time to dip into her works again. I’m glad I did and extremely glad I chose The Three. (Actually, it was an amazon recommendation and sometimes they’re kind of hit or miss.) As it turns out, The Three was a dead center bullseye.
O’Brien’s Wild and Infinite Loop featured engaging, even fun characters who also earn your respect and admiration, intriguing stories with perfect pacing as well as flawless execution in the mechanical aspects of writing. The Three definitely lives up to those high standards. Moreover, here we have, as the title suggests, a third main character to enjoy; this is more than lagniappe, though: all three characters, Anna, Elin and Kael, are absolutely essential to the story. It takes some time for the reader to warm to Kael, just as it does Anna, who has just met the other two; this, I assume, is by design, and adds another element of conflict for the characters to overcome. Elin, however, is adorable from the git-go. Despite her innocence in some areas, Elin is every bit as strong as her two companions. And, folks, in a world where a candidate for POTUS can brag about sexual assault with complete impunity, we need all the stories about strong women we can get.
I began reading science-fiction when I was about ten, so I’ve read my share of post-apocalyptic stories. What makes The Three different is that the disease-ravaged world merely provides the setting whereas, in most other such novels, the disaster which has befallen our world is the entire raison d’être of the work. Almost all dystopian novels are cautionary tales; The Three, on the other hand, is an intensive character study in triplicate. It takes a special writer to make such story quite entertaining as well, and O’Brien is more than up to the task.
A couple of online reviewers said they wanted more details about what caused the illness which devastated the Earth. If this were the typical post-apocalyptic tale, I might agree, but here, despite the fact that the adventure-filled plot holds your interest and is often riveting, it’s the characters that matter. The plot is certainly compelling enough to keep you turning pages but extraneous scientific detail would make this an entirely different novel. What backstory there is occurs in the dialog, avoiding the common info-dumps which plague many science-fiction stories.
As for the mechanical aspects of the work, the nuts and bolts, if you will, of a writer’s craft, we’re also on very solid footing. Yeah, it’s a Bold Strokes offering and I can’t imagine Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman putting out anything but highly polished books, but something about O’Brien’s writing makes me think her work doesn’t need a lot of tightening up. In any case, there are none of those gaffes of grammar, etc. that can seriously interrupt the narrative flow and leave you scratching your head.
Finally, of course, there’s the sex. And, yes, there’s lots of it but it never feels like too much. Each such scene is certainly erotic but, though graphic, it never feels gratuitous or “porn-y.” Every lovemaking event is there for a purpose. I’m reminded of Katherine V. Forrest’s remark that you can show things about character in a sex scene that can’t be depicted any other way. The Three perfectly illustrates that.
One of the important things about O’Brien’s writing, in my opinion, is that she understands that people are people irrespective of orientation, gender, race or any other descriptive. While a character’s response to the events of a story is inevitably colored by experiences based on any or all of the above, what O’Brien’s characters always display is basic human emotion and that makes it easy for any reader to relate to them.
In summary, then, Meghan O’Brien’s The Three is an extremely well-written, logically plotted, entertaining novel with terrific characters whom you come to root for because they’re admirable and have become very real. If the overall tone is more serious than Infinite Loop or even Wild, that merely serves to underscore O’Brien’s versatility as a writer. I highly recommend The Three, as I do the other novels mentioned.