The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Posted on: June 23, 2014

THE RULE OF THREE is yet another addition to the glut of young adult (YA) disaster books that have flooded the market recently. That said, it stands head and shoulders above most of them. It is an engaging read with interesting characters.

Adam Daley is sixteen years old and hard at work helping a friend with an essay on a school computer when suddenly all the power goes out. It doesn’t take long before students and faculty alike learn this isn’t a typical power outage. Your usual power blip doesn’t normally affect modern cars as well as cell phones. School is dismissed early and Adam climbs into his beater, an ancient jalopy that by some miracle (to he and his friends, at least) still runs. Picking up his siblings at the elementary school, he heads for home.

Adam’s mother is a local police captain and his father, a commercial pilot, is away from home on business. Herb, Adam’s next door neighbor, is a retired gent who knows far more than is obvious at first. Readers here, though, will probably figure out immediately why Herb wants a ride to the local pool supply store so he can buy as much chlorine as he can carry, despite the fact that there is no pool in Herb’s backyard.

At no time do we, the readers, learn the exact nature of what we presume to be an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event that has taken place. We know nothing more than what the characters are able to learn through spotty ham radio communications.

It doesn’t take long before polite society begins to break down. As this happens, we learn more and more about the mysterious Herb. Seems he may be more than just the retired government paper-pusher he’s been telling everyone he is. It is Herb’s character that I found to be one of the more interesting and original components in this story. I mean, sure, we’ve all seen the ex-operative character in disaster fiction, the guy who seems to know how to do everything from kill with a clothes hanger to pilot a jet. Here, though, Herb is more than that stereotype. In fact, time and again he uses people skills, such as negotiation, to accomplish a goal or defuse conflict. I found this to be rather refreshing, actually, compared to the all too typical shoot ’em all approach we’ve seen over and over again.

As the story progresses, Adam’s neighborhood becomes almost his entire world. Fortifications go up, security plans implemented, and long-term plans begin to be formulated. Their secret weapon is Adam’s ultralight, a small DIY plane he and his father built in the garage. Using it to fly over other areas of the city, Adam (and us) are able to see just how bad things are outside the walls.

Being a YA book, there is naturally a hint of romance in the form of Adam’s crush, Lori. The only thing that really bothered me about this subplot was the convenience of it. I mean, of course the girl he’s crushing on has been pining for him, too, and, of course she just happens to live close enough to be included in the little community they’ve formed. The author does handle this subplot skillfully but, in my opinion, it was just a tad unnecessary.

The other thing that didn’t quite ring true to me was the reliance Adam’s mother, the police captain, had with regards to Herb. It would seem to me that anyone, but particularly a woman, who is self-confident and skilled enough to rise to the rank of police captain wouldn’t just roll over and let a “civilian” call as many shots as Herb does. I would have liked to see Adam’s mother push back against some of Herb’s suggestions, if nothing else than to allow Herb to inform her (and the reader) exactly why he was making certain suggestions. Again, this didn’t detract from the overall story but it is something I noticed.

THE RULE OF THREE ends somewhat abruptly, with at least a couple of plot threads left unraveled. But, I’ve since learned this is the first book in a planned trilogy so I’m confident things will be wrapped up in the next couple of books.

All in all, I really enjoyed THE RULE OF THREE. As I’ve mentioned before, YA disaster fiction has really exploded in the last few years and many of those books are really top notch. THE RULE OF THREE is highly recommended. You can find here on Amazon as well as at most major bookstores and your local library.

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