The Third by Abel Keogh

The Third.jpgThis is a dystopian future story that tries really hard to have a deep meaning but really leaves too many loose threads to feel like a complete novel.

One of the conceits of dystopian futures is that you have to agree to stop asking questions. For instance, what events transpired to allow the world in 1984 to exist? It makes no sense. (I know that I’m probably inviting a lot of arguments with this since a lot of people think we are headed there right now. My argument is that those concerns and worries are precisely why this will never actually happen. I could say a lot more about that but this review is about The Third.)

In Abel Keogh’s The Third readers are asked to believe in a future where cities in the United States are, apparently, left up to themselves to be self-sustaining and a great ecological disaster has forced people to make laws for population control. People also, apparently have to live in tiny apartments and have rationed food etc. Don’t ask how this happened. The point of the book is not how the dystopia came to be. It’s how people deal with the oppression of that society.

Ransom is a garbage worker and his wife is a nurse. Their world starts to come apart when they find out they are expecting their third — and illegal — child.

The book spends a lot of time showing Ransom charging around the city looking for ways to solve the dilemma and getting beat on by cruel and efficient bullies. Towards the end a solution is presented but he has to go against the dogma that has been driven into him since he was a boy.

It’s an okay book. The writing is good enough. The story is acceptable. The characters dilemma feels real. Somehow it never quite comes together, though. The world feels like the city exists in a white box with nothing beyond. The world doesn’t seem to be fully fleshed out — and maybe it doesn’t need to be but it feels lacking. The entire book is just… good enough. I find there is little to complain about but little to love either. Several subplots that were introduced in the early chapters are forgotten and abandoned by the end.

My one item of real praise is that the characters in this book behave in character throughout even when it will make things harder for them, and for the author. Sometimes they are so in character they are frustrating.

There are better dystopian fiction books out there but to be honest my lackadaisical response to this book might be because this is a genre that I have never really enjoyed. I have a difficult time seeing how our world could have gotten to this mess and the same is true of most of these kinds of books.

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