Book Title: The Rule of Three (Rule of Three Trilogy, #01)
Author: Eric Walters
Number of pages: 405
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,
(re: Goodreads @ The Rule of Three by Eric Walters)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
– Large portion of the plot involves scurrying to fulfill the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (physiological and safety needs); a realistic read through of a survival guide, if anything.
– Surreal world building that makes you feel like your town could fit the bill of the location that the plot takes place (assuming you live in an almost suburban neighborhood).
– Protagonist is relatable and there is a budding romantic angle separate to the plot.
– Narrative is well-paced to span the initial havoc with decent lapses in time. It also balances downtime with several tense action scenes despite there also being moments of questionable urgency considering its environment.
One afternoon, my friend who works at Mastermind (think Toy/Book store) told me that Eric Walters just walked into her store and just decided to sign some of his books. Then I remembered I TBR’d The Rule of Three earlier in the year and I was like, “dude, save me a copy of TRo3.” And she did. And now I am here writing this review.
What you see is what you get with this book. The tagline on the back of the hardcover states:
“A person can last 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. A community begins to die in just seconds.”
Boom. Are you interested? If so, don’t let me stop you from picking this read up. The rest of this is my gritty analysis. Still interested in what I think? Keep on reading then...even though I didn’t really have much time to think and just word vomited all over the document. Well, enjoy!
Disclaimer: There may be spoilers inherent to this review from this point onward.
Ever endured a blackout? They usually last several minutes, maybe a few hours, a day at most—still reasonable to overcome. Remember the scare behind Y2K? If you lived on the eastern coast of North America, how about the blackout of 2003? Yeah, shit got real serious real fast. I was in cottage country during this time, so it was like, whatever, but being so far gone from city life allowed this story to truly resonate and took me back to that moment of no electricity, a world in silence, and lots of internal havoc. And maybe that was the inspiration for Walters’ approach; a throwback of sorts to the stillness of life when it feels as though we’re cut off from everything by proxy of losing technology. Except in the case of The Rule of Three, the author considers a variant on this situation by making most computerized devices obsolete while still allowing the possibility of technology through vintage approaches to mechanical and industrial functioning. Maybe the possibility of steampunk is more than just trend after all; he may be on to something! (Not that this novel takes that genre route though) A contemporary world marred by an obsession for power; in both a metaphorical and tangible perspective, will always be at the mercy of each other when shit hits the fan. So when it does, as Eric Walter’s penned on the inside cover: will you survive?
[“Civilized behaviour is nothing more than a thin veneer. Once that’s peeled away it can get ugly very quickly.”]
Shit hits the fan on page five as Adam Daley is milling about with his bestie Todd in the library at school. Power outages are usually a common thing; until they begin to realise that cellular devices are down, cars don’t start, and despite the ruckus of students being able to leave school early, there is something truly unsettling about what was going on—not to mention that only Adam’s beat-up hunk of junk car leaves the lot and he has to swerve through stalled vehicles and a plethora of confused pedestrians staring through him. Upon arriving back to his neighborhood, Adam is greeted by his neighbor, a seemingly fragile man who requests Adam’s assistance (and his vehicle) in making a few errands. On their trip to the pool shop to get old Herb some supplies, Adam begins to notice the shift in thinking, the growing agitation and desperation for answers, but more importantly the layer-by-layer removal of humanity as society regresses back a few hundred years and all that’s truly left is the flesh and bone on your back. So when everyone becomes equalized to nothing, what Adam decides to make out of it teeters on life and death for his family, his friends, and his community.
[“I know that someday things will be fixed, but until then, we have to take care of ourselves. We have to take care of one another. Out there, beyond our neighborhood, things are getting worse, more desperate—more dangerous and more ruthless. We have to protect ourselves from those forces, but we don’t have to become like them. We can construct our own world guided by justice and fairness, marked by caring and compassion. We can stand against that’s happening all around us, persevere in what we believe in. We have a change. We can stand and succeed as a group or fall and fail as individuals.”]
First and foremost: holy shit, the location in this book hits so close to home but is written in such a way that any low-key, small town suburban environment located a few hours from a larger metropolis can be visualized to fit the involved setting. The atmosphere slowly shifts to enter a dystopian setting on the outside-world while trying to create a sense of community once events are set into motion and the small lot of neighbours decide to band together. It’s weird in a way that they wanted to salvage what was left of a potentially utopian society (the world today) while erring on the side of social order and reform amongst the people; which would highly indicate a dystopian society for people other than the main characters—because who wants to be told what to do anyways? I hope that made sense (even if it doesn’t make much sense to me). The construction of said abode felt on-point to what would have happened if logging was still at the forefront of construction and there was a definite rustic ambient feel to a world cut off from electricity.
The story follows Adam’s perspective as an average 16-year old through a well-paced novel. While the opening starts off with a bang, when people begin to congregate and long discussions are had, there are noticeable holes in the plot that did affect my overall read. Realism for this type of concept needs to be impeccable for the story to sell. For the most part, it’s done the genre justice by painting an image of possibility with sensible actions to follow suit. The qualms I have however, is the fact that there’s a lacking sense of consequence for the main cast despite the apparent urgency they’re facing. It seems as though every action taken by them has the pretense of ‘whatever, nothing bad will happen to me anyway.’ Why is that? For Adam, just barely in the middle of his teenage life, once thrown into the mix of chaos…he goes along with everything Herb says. Which may make sense because he’s likely an impressionable teenager but mind you, he’s only known this man to live on his street and that’s pretty much it. Now, I’m not saying that Herb was a serial killer or anything but when you’re in Adam’s shoes with limited knowledge of ‘what the fuck is happening’ how does one immediately accept help and follow the advice of anyone outside of arms reach without true skepticism. It’s just not there, and it’s what I was missing throughout the novel. Does he question his behaviour? Yes. But while red flags may present themselves, Adam just goes along for the ride. Derp. Not to mention that it seems as though random characters just take the heat of the situation without giving much of a fight (to the protagonists); the people I’m referring to are the ruthless individuals who just learned Darwinism first-hand prior to meeting the rag-tag duo of old man Herb and boy-wonder Adam…and yet seemingly fall flat to Herb outsmarting these momentary antagonists without real struggle. It’s these small details that didn’t work for me in the sense that all the cards just easily fell into place for Adam and his family and friends.
[“I couldn’t help feeling he’d just put another chess move together with us watching, not even knowing there was a game being played.”]
Other characters cast to be in this not-dystopian utopia is Adam’s goofy friend (Todd), a romantic interest in schoolmate Lori, two younger twin-siblings, a pilot of a father who went MIA on a flight trip, and his police sergeant of a mother. Oh, and the budding relationship Adam has with old man Herb, who has hidden many secrets about his past life but acts and thinks in a survivalist manner. It’s kind of funny though that when things are about to go south, this book up-votes the fact that you should listen to the old man (when most books may opt to portray them as an afterthought…even if they’re right about things).
The overall quality of internal and outward dialogue in this novel is engaging and definitely relatable. While Adam hasn’t really grown in spades since the start, his relationships with each supporting character did have an impact on how he’s slowly changing for the better—even if it was mostly Herb that made him think on his feet. As much as I would like to say that the romance aspect between Adam and Lori was unnecessary from a character development point of view, it does have certain impacts on the plot progression. But what I did find hard to believe was that she claimed that no non-jock boy approached her (I paraphrased what she meant) and therefore dated what was available to her (jock kids). So when little Adam comes along…she’s suddenly in his debts (or arms?) within chapters. So how about that boyfriend you just had like a day ago? It’s highly unlikely that you would entitle yourself to be someone’s girlfriend without any remote feelings but then suddenly chase away those feelings for this new found friendship to someone you’ve barely conversed with in the next day. Oh my goodness, just no. I just feel bad for Todd who basically understood bro code and let Lori and Adam be off alone (so as not to be the third-wheel)…but don’t worry Todd, I’ve got your back, you were much more enjoyable to read and realistically depicted than her.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t know this was going to be a trilogy. I was zooming through the read with the desire to understand more about why things happened and where some characters were. But this first instalment didn’t really delve into much except for the preparation; almost as if this book was a survival guide for a cataclysmic event (such as all power shutting down). Sure there were moments of turmoil and moments of moral conundrums…but nothing really happens. While it has an abrupt ending that suggests that more will happen (as it errs on the side of inevitability), there are so many unknowns in the air during the plot progression that may actually troll readers into thinking that pertinent information will come during the final chapter arcs…when nothing is truly revealed. If anything, the ending is the beginning—yes, one of those scenarios.
[“Sometimes you have to poke the tiger with a stick to get him to do what you want him to do. If you can’t avoid a battle, it’s always best to have it happen when and where you want. Especailly when your opponent doesn’t know you decided those things. Today we set the direction they’ll follow.”]
Let me theorize this a bit. If you have ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then you’ll know that there are five fundamentals levels in the pyramid where most of the lesser important human developmental content is based upon satisfying physiological needs. Basically, you’ll die if you don’t meet the bare necessities of living. Walters’ The Rule of Three works much the same in checking off, one-by-one, the path of human behavior as events unfold. When all goes to shit, tunnel visioning on the base level (food and water) becomes the most important to many because if a person can’t even meet this requirement of survival…then they’re as good as dead. The following level delves into safety and the securing of tangible goods and the feeling that you might be okay, even if you’re scared shitless in the back of your mind. This is where the majority of this novel spends its time: the canvassing of knowledge, the understanding of limitations, and the building of a community to keep itself afloat against the tides of human nature. The message therein being that to handle a drastic change in lifestyle is to be the first to pounce on an opportunity; and that every little bit of positivity (material or not) is a step-up and advantage for yourself. But that’s basically it. Sure there are issues and fighting and what-have-you…but aside from showing readers how to step-by-step prepare ourselves for survival (which is good because it’s an active tone) the whole book does feel a bit overwritten at times as it doesn’t really give any indication of going anywhere in terms of plot.
But…(there’s always a but isn’t there? I guess I like to analyze both sides. Sorrynotsorry.)
There’s a benefit in writing the middle-to-end that works for this novel though. As a reader, you may grasp at new information or knowledge before the character realises it themselves. But sometimes you’re left in the same dark place as the protagonist and it’s basically impossible to figure out the puzzle of the next chapter. If this was the intent, then Walters’ has done right by maintaining a self-aware protagonist who is relatable even if cynics may peg some of Adam’s behaviours to be pretentious and not humble as he seems to be. Let’s be real: for him to have the knowledge to pilot an aircraft and have the state of mind to grow into a protective role (to fill in for his father’s shoes) by having a good head on his shoulders is questionable at best. Impossible? No. Believable? Ehh-maybe.
Overall, even though there were some definite gray areas and questionable scenes that either felt unnecessary to the plot (like, why was there a need for a chapter of scrabble for Adam to remember his father….when realistically that train of thought would have been with him every day) or just didn’t work in terms of convenience and consequence, the fact is that Eric Walters’ The Rule of Three was a realist take on what measures society would take if a post-apocalyptic event (as simple as losing power) ever occurred. Will I be continuing this trilogy? You bet. I need to know what happens to a town that’s not even an hour away from me—like for real. Maybe this Adam and Herb exist in real life, too.
[“…—although we live with quiet hope. We know nothing but what we see with our own eyes.”]
//review ends here.
Oh look another long review that isn’t an overdue ARC review that I’m supposed to be doing but oh well because this one just spewed out of me so easily.
Buuuut hopefully I’ll get around to it soon because there will be exciting things from my end of things if everything works out!