Book Review: Day Four by Sarah Lotz
A review copy was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Series: Book 2 of The Three
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 16, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sarah Lotz topped my 2014 Horror/Thriller list with her book The Three, terrifying me with a story about four deadly plane crashes and three mysterious child survivors. This year she’s set to dominate my Best-Of lists again with her new book Day Four.
Thing is, The Three may have scared the living daylights out of me, but hey, I was already afraid of flying.
Day Four, however, may have just ruined cruising for me as well.
This is the story about the Beautiful Dreamer, a cruise ship carrying just under 3000 souls on board for her four-days-fight-nights voyage through the Gulf of Mexico. It’s New Year’s Eve on the final night and everyone’s ready to party and usher in a fresh new start, when the unthinkable happens. The ship suddenly stops dead in the water – no power, no radio, no cellphone signals. The much prayed for rescue never comes, and as the days go by, things get worse – the toilets stop running, food starts spoiling, and all over the ship, reports are coming in about passengers and crew members seeing and hearing some strange, impossible things…
Before this book, I’d never considered how much we take for granted on a cruise. If you’ve ever been on one, then you know the drill. From the moment you board to the time you disembark, everything is organized and planned for your pleasure and convenience. Your luggage is brought to your stateroom, where your excursion tickets await. Your dining times are scheduled, unless you wish to hit up the buffet where more food than you could ever imagine is piled in mountains on the serving tables. Everything works like a well-oiled machine, despite the hoopla of hundreds of guests all crammed into staterooms on multiple decks along the long narrow corridors that span almost the entire length of the ship.
But when the engines stop and the lights go out, how cheery do you think a cruise ship is then? Without power and the ability to cook or keep food fresh, what good are the all-you-can-eat buffets? When the infrastructure starts to break down, the crew overworked and sick of the abuse from irate passengers, the entire system falls apart. A cruise ship is like a floating city, after all. When order fails on a ship, you can expect to see the same kind of uncontrolled spiral into chaos. And I have to say Sarah Lotz has perfectly envisioned and captured this descent into pure anarchy.
On top of that, compared to The Three which was more of a suspense/thriller, Day Four reads more like a horror novel in the traditional sense. We’re exposed to some disturbing things right off the bat, even if the horrors are the more mundane kind to start with. For most of us, cruise ships mean vacation and relaxation, plenty of fun in the sun. However, beneath the glitzy façade lies the dark truths no one likes to talk about. Slovenly and rude passengers. Inclement weather and unstable seas. The risk of norovirus and infectious diseases. Sexual predators and assault. There’s plenty in the secret world of cruise ship problems that can turn a fun-filled vacation into a nightmare, I’m sure.
The day after the Beautiful Dreamer breaks down, when it’s clear that no rescue is coming and the captain is hiding the truth of the problem, that’s when the real creepy fun begin. Several passengers start exhibiting strange behavior, the superstitious crew insist on seeing visions of the Lady in White who haunts the belly of the ship, a child is spotted darting around the lower decks even though it is an adults-only New Year’s cruise, and a dead body of a young woman is found in her stateroom with rumors saying that she died just before the ship stopped. Imagine all that going down in the middle of the ocean stranded miles from civilization, tempers and tensions high with full-blown panic not too far behind. Oh, and throw in an open bar, because alcohol is sure to make any bad situation better! Right?
No surprise that in a short time, the Beautiful Dreamer turns into a floating hell. Amidst the paranormal eeriness that pervades the story is added stresses of the passengers and crew, and Sarah Lotz does an incredible job showing that people can be driven to all sorts of ugliness when they are feeling frightened and trapped. More than once, I entertained the thought of the ship sinking and everyone going down with it on this voyage of the damned, and realized I probably wouldn’t even feel too bad if that happened. What amazes me is that so much goes on in this book, but everything is tied together in some way. The story is told through the perspectives of about half a dozen people whose lives are all linked, showing all sides of the narrative. All of it forms a picture of the kind of dread that’s both awful and claustrophobic, and the writing puts you right there on the Beautiful Dreamer in the middle of that craziness.
I didn’t think it would be possible, but I think I enjoyed Day Four even more than The Three. It’s a real page-turner and an easier read in many ways, written in a more traditional style versus an epistolary format. The book is advertised as a sequel to The Three but really it is a stand alone novel that can be enjoyed on its own, and I’d even say pick this one if you had the choice between the two, though both books are fantastic and worth reading.
Highly recommended, with just one warning: you probably want to avoid Day Four if you have a cruise planned in the near future! I love cruises and the vibrant atmosphere of a cruise ship, and despite what I said at the beginning of my review, I doubt this book would be enough to turn me off cruising…but I probably won’t be planning my next one until the memories of this terrifying story are out of my system!