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Book Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

A person can last:
3 Minutes without Air
3 Days without Water
3 Weeks without Food

A community begins to die in just seconds . . . 

30 minutes before Todd’s paper is due, he is in the school’s computer lab trying to have his best friend Adam type it for him.  Suddenly everything stops working.  Computers. Cell phones. Cars.  Nothing that has a computer component to it works.

Luckily, Adam has an old beat up car, and they are able to pick up his younger siblings from school and make it home to their subdivision neighborhood.  The world is about to change.

What follows is a look at the world falling apart.  People begin to run out of food, acts of violence break out, and fear and desperation grow.  But The Rule of Three is a little different because in it the small, local community comes together to put a detailed plan into action for long term survival.  This is not a journey through the decaying landscape, but an exercise in thought, reason, and working together with your neighbors to survive.  There is conflict, but it comes mostly from outside groups that see what this neighborhood is building for itself and wants to try and take it – after all the hard work is done of course.

Where The Rule of Three excels is in its tackling of difficult discussions and a look at the importance of intelligence, planning and coming together.  Characters wrestle with turning away those in need as they do the math about how much food they can produce, how many people it can feed, and for how long.  There are discussions about killing others in the defense of preserving the lives of the many inside the neighborhood.  They even talk about the idea of situational ethics; since the world has changed, the ethics of the world has changed and they must try to find a way to balance this and still maintain their humanity.

There are a few huge plot conveniences that make the plot work, like the fact that Adam’s missing father is a pilot and Adam himself was taking flying lessons and building a small plane that still functions because it doesn’t have a computer.  Adam’s mother is also the local chief of police and his next door neighbor, Herb, is a retired some type of operative who happened to be preparing for this very type of event for a really long time.  Herb, in fact, is the big planner.  He has experience and knowledge that is invaluable to the long range survival plan, and Walters does a good job of throwing a few details in to make him a little more realistic, but Herb tends to be a little superheroish in his calm resolve as he continually comes to save the day.

At the end of the day, The Rule of Three is an interesting story and a good study for those who want to survive the post-technology apocalypse (they never say but I am thinking an EMP).  There is a lot of good information and strategy in the pages of this book hidden inside the story.  It is thoughtful in the important discussions that would need to take place.  And there is plenty of action and suspense to keep readers entertained.  There is also a sweet, slow love story tucked in there in a way that makes sense and doesn’t overpower or minimize anything.

Sometimes the conveniences made me roll my eyes (I mean, I do hope that all those people live in my neighborhood when the post-technology apocalypse happens), but overall I think this is a thoughtful look at human nature with a hopeful tone, some solid relationships, and good action.  Adam is a well developed and thoughtful main character.  Not as dark and gritty as some of the PA lit out there, making this more accessible for some readers.  There is only one scene where they mention anything sexual, and it is in jest and not graphic (strip Scrabble of course!), so this is a good one for older MG or younger YA readers, keeping in mind that there is, of course, some violence.

3 out of 5 stars, I can see a lot of readers enjoying this.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters, published 2014.  ISBN: 978-0-374-35502-9.

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