Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

March 30, 2014 Reviews 13 ★★★½

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on January 21, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 405
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.

One of my favorite things about the post-apocalyptic genre is learning about the events that caused the apocalypse.  That never happens in The Rule of Three.  Of course, there are valid reasons why we may never receive that information. (Call me a greedy reader for wanting it anyway.)  In The Rule of Three, some unknown catastrophe causes all computers and electronic equipment to shut down.  This affects expected devices like cell phones and water pumps, but also modern cars that rely on computers to operate.  This is a time when you might be grateful for the heap o’ junk in your driveway, rather than the shiny new cars everyone else is driving.

Adam is having a normal day at school when the lights suddenly go out.  Then the students realize that their phones don’t work.  Class is dismissed early, but there’s one problem – cars won’t operate, so students can’t get home.  Adam’s old car works, however, and he’s able to get home, driving past many people who are stranded when their cars suddenly stopped working.

My main problem with this story is how easily Adam and his family and friends have it, relative to everyone else.  He’s got one of the few working cars.  He’s a (16 year old!!!!) pilot with an ultralight plane that flies without the use of computers.  His mother is the town police captain, so he has access to information that few people have.  His mysterious neighbor is a former CIA operative who is able to predict with startling accuracy exactly how events will unfold following the catastrophe, so that Adam and co. are able to prepare.  His kinda/sorta girlfriend lives on a farm with a seemingly endless supply of food and water, something that no one else has.  So, the short story is – if you’re in with Adam, you’re good.  If not, your’re screwed.

Since all of the immediate potential crises that one would face in this situation are so quickly addressed and resolved for Adam and his friends (food, water, security, medical care, access to information, and transportation), the author chooses to focus instead on how society might break down.  Resources are at a premium, and since they’re all seemingly possessed by Adam’s friends, they are placed in a situation of both extreme power and extreme vulnerability.  They must decide whether and how to share their resources with others outside their circle while protecting the resources for themselves.  I hope we never have to find out whether The Rule of Three presents an accurate depiction of how society would break down following an apocalypse, but it seemed realistic enough.  On the other hand, the ease and speed with which Adam and his friends adapted to the situation was hard to swallow.


13 Responses to “Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters”

    • Stephanie

      I do understand that it’s not possible to always understand what caused it, but it is fun to know!

  1. Angel (Spare Reads)

    I think I get what you mean when you say “Adam has it too easy”. From the sound of it, it does appear to be too convenient/well-orchestrated to have Adam being impacted the least by this catastrophe. This will probably bug me a bit, but this still sounds like a very interesting read if I can look past that. Thanks for the review Stephanie!
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    • Stephanie

      The biggest issue was his airplane. It did make for some exciting scenes, but it was just a tad too convenient.

  2. Angel (Spare Reads)

    I, too, wish post-apocalyptic fictions can take the time to explain the chain of events that led to the destruction of our society sometimes, but I understand why authors tend to omit it. It might take too long to properly explain the cause whereas the authors would rather focus on the aftermath, though it sounds like everything is a bit too convenient/well-orchestrated for our Adam here. All in all, it still looks interesting though, so I will probably give it a try nonetheless.
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  3. Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    THIS “So, the short story is – if you’re in with Adam, you’re good. If not, your’re screwed.” and and THIS ” Resources are at a premium, and since they’re all seemingly possessed by Adam’s friends, they are placed in a situation of both extreme power and extreme vulnerability.” lol. I don’t like books that are way too easy and I’m not sure this is the type of story I’d be interested in so I’ll probably pass but it’s an interesting idea!
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    • Stephanie

      It does make the protagonist less interesting when everything is handed to them on a silver platter. I want to see some struggle!

  4. Greg

    You highlight several issues I had with this story as well. I generally liked this book, but I agree that Adam had it made in a sense. I also wanted to know what caused the apocalypse, or at least get some clues.

    And the whole airplane thing… that just seemed a little silly, I don’t know.
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  5. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I love apocalyptic books! Buuut, I’m with you. Finding out how it starts is one of the most interesting parts. (Like in Partials by Dan Wells! War is kind of normal, but at least you know !) Aaand, gosh, convenient much?? I guess it’s cool if you’re a 16-year-old pilot and all that, but it seems like Adam’s just been crafted to be 100% okay for the end of the world. Mm. It’s on my wish-list, but I don’t think I’ll be running out for it just yet. Great review!!
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  6. Samantha

    I think Eric Walters is a very good writer, but the not-knowing-about-how-the-apocalypse-started problem sounds troublesome. Oh well. I am super excited because I am going to meet him tomorrow. *happy dance!*
    Great review.
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  7. Joy (Joyousreads)

    Truthfully, I was liking the sound of the premise already until you started mentioning the convenience of being in Adam’s circle of friends is. I think I’d like to read this one anyway just because I’ve been known to like what others don’t. Ha. 🙂

    Great review, Stephanie.
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  8. Joy @ Thoughts By J

    This actually sounds like a YA version of Matthew Mathers’s Cyberstorm novel. I loved Cyberstorm, so I was intrigued with how this book would play out.

    “So, the short story is – if you’re in with Adam, you’re good. If not, your’re screwed.” – Damn! How very convenient. The best thing about apocalyptic stories are the struggle of survival. When everything is handed to Adam, it really seems to defeat the point…

    Wonderful review Stephanie, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts. xx
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