March 11, 2014

The Rule of Three

by Eric Walters
Razorbill
978-0-670-06705-3
405 pp.
Ages 12-18
January, 2014

While the Eden Mills of Eric Walters' The Rule of Three becomes a dystopian world, it is not a futuristic community under a totalitarian or an environmentally-degraded one.  It's the suburban neighbourhoods so many of us live in. The story begins in a high school with teens desperate to complete an assignment, a typical event in any high school in Canada or the US today.  But everything changes when the power goes out.  Not just the electricity that ultimately provides heat, light, water, sewage, refrigeration, and the countless amenities of our power-dependent lives, but also computerized devices like cell phones, lap tops, cars, etc. The unpleasantness of a dystopia is not immediately evident, but it's coming.

For Adam Daley and his family, the onset of the power outage doesn't create as much chaos as it does for the majority of the population.   Because Adam's 1970's Omega doesn't rely on fancy electronics, they have one of the few functioning vehicles around.  Mom is a police captain who works in the nearly precinct, so not only is she close to home, she commands some respect among those who may be acting less than nobly.  Dad is a pilot for Delta and was safely grounded in Chicago (not in the air) when all devices stopped working, and had been helping Adam, who is learning to fly, to build an ultralight plane in their garage.  Probably most significant is the close relationship the Daley family has with their elderly neighbour, Herb Campbell, whose former governmental job that took him around the world (Adam wonders if he was a spy) has him well-prepared for any disaster and skilled in diffusing dangerous situations.

As people become more desperate for food and water, and fearful for their families, Herb recognizes that, "We have to become increasingly more organized as the world becomes more disorganized." (pg. 141) In addition to patrols and checkpoints and a credit system to prevent further looting,  they conduct a census to determine what skills are already within the community.  Moreover, they convince the Petersons, the parents of the girl that Adam is crushing on, to transport all their farming equipment and animals to Eden Mills to share their knowledge of farming, building wells, etc. with them. 

While occasional forays in the ultralight reveal much destruction and the establishment of other communities, the group works to build up their own community, establish better defense strategies, and attempt to deal with potential allies and enemies.  Sometimes mistakes, even fatal ones, are made as they learn what works and doesn't work, but they develop, amend and create solutions that might help them all survive yet another day.

The consummate author of engaging books for young readers, Eric Walters will have no difficulty grabbing fans of adventure, survival, dystopian or speculative fiction with The Rule of Three and its series. (There are sequels coming, as the last line in the book suggests.) Strangely, Eric Walters does not need to rely on supernatural elements or demand that readers completely deny their common sense.  Every and any reader could place themselves in the role of Adam, Lori, or another character, and recognize that their reactions are very honest and real.  There are the know-it-alls, the aggressors, the innocents, the ignorant, the leaders and the followers.  There are those you'll despise, those for whom you'll cheer and those you'll want as your neighbours.  Herb calls it well when he declares that, "Crisis doesn't change people; it reveals them." (pg. 325) In The Rule of Three, Eric Walters reveals us to ourselves in a time of crisis, albeit with names of Adam, Herb, Brett, Ernie, Howie and Stan, and we may not always like what we see.  Luckily, though The Rule of Three seems very real, it's only fiction. Right?

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