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May 20, 2014

Book Notes - Sarah Lotz "The Three"

The Three

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Sarah Lotz's novel The Three is a compelling and haunting thriller, one that has drawn comparisons to the works of Stephen King.

The Independent wrote of the book:

"Lotz keeps things moving with a deft ambiguity and plenty of moments of heart-stopping terror. It’s a confident, assured and thought-provoking novel that deserves as wide an audience as possible."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Sarah Lotz's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, The Three:

The Three revolves around an unthinkable occurrence: four commercial planes crashing on the same day. Unsurprisingly, when I told people I'd been asked to compile a playlist inspired by the novel, almost everyone suggested "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Other popular choices were songs by famous artists who had been tragically killed in air accidents, such as Buddy Holly, Ronnie van Zant, Aaliyah, Otis Redding and Patsy Cline. Much as I love their music (I'm a huge Patsy Cline fan) I've tried to resist going down this route as it's lazy and predictable (sorry people who gave me suggestions!). Instead I've chosen tracks that are either referenced in the book or reflect the content in some way (although admittedly, a couple of hokey tracks have slipped through the net).

"Mandy," Barry Manilow

One of the novel's narrators, failed British actor and consummate snob Paul Craddock mentions this song when he's communicating with his ghost writer, Mandi Solomon. Paul is full of snark, so was great fun to write, but like most people who bullshit and bluster their way through life, he's uses this to mask insecurity and disappointment.

I'm a fan of cheesiness, so I prefer Manilow's version to the Westlife cover, and I reckon Paul would too.

"Beginner," AKB48

Otaku culture features quite prominently in The Three, and there's a reference to the phenomenon of Japanese idol bands in the book. Along with Tokyo Girls' Style, AKB48 is perhaps the most famous idol group (it apparently now boasts 89 members).

Last year, when I was researching the novel, I took my mum with me to Tokyo. She fell in love with the city, and seemed to be more at home in Akihabara – Tokyo's Otaku central – than I was (and I'm a massive geek). We spent hours in the bewildering, kitchsy depths of the Don Quijote department store, which houses AKB48's live performance stage. I will always regret that I never managed to convince her to buy a cosplay outfit while we were there (it was a close run thing though).

"Prisoner," Lucky Dube

As I decided to attempt to write across cultures and in different voices, the action in the novel takes place in multiple locations – the States, Japan, the UK and Cape Town, South Africa, where I currently live.

I moved to South Africa in the early nineties, and shortly after I arrived, I was invited to a Lucky Dube concert. I hadn't heard his music before I came to the country and wasn't into reggae at the time, but I had a blast and I came away a die-hard Dube fan. Tragically, he was murdered in 2007 in a botched car-jacking.

A few months ago, I was promoting The Three in the States, and got talking to a Congolese guy who had spent time in SA and who'd also seen Dube live. Both of us ended up in tears talking about him.

"No Sleep till Brooklyn," Beastie Boys

One of the older characters in the novel, Lillian Small, lives in Williamsburg Brooklyn, where she rubs shoulders with the hipsters and musos and wannabes.

I was a huge Beastie Boys fan when I was a teenager and I love Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg and Bed Stuy (whenever I visit I daydream about moving there, although it's way out of my price range), and so this track seemed apt, as it's basically a shouty homage to NYC.

"Paper Planes," M.I.A

In The Three, one of the planes crashes into the heart of Khayelitsha, Cape Town's largest township, which is home to thousands of refugees from the DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Senegal and Zimbabwe. In 2008, xenophobic riots broke out throughout South Africa, with locals attacking and murdering scores of migrants. The violence was partly fuelled by a belief that migrants were arming the economy and stealing locals' jobs. This track brilliantly addresses the stereotypical reaction many refugees face – that they're worthless and a blight on society.

"Invaders Must Die," Prodigy

When I was researching The Three, I spent quite a lot of time delving into the murky depths of the internet and hanging out on conspiracy theory sites – especially alien sites. Many of them believe the alien invaders are already here (and are running the UK government, which would explain a lot). Also, I like to drive – it helps me think – and this track is on one of my favourite driving-too-fast playlists.

"Dance Apocalyptic" or any track from ArchAndroid or Electric Lady, Janelle Monae

The father of one of the crash survivors is a robotics expert based in Osaka. His character is based on the real-life 'android man' Hiroshi Ishiguro, whose ground-breaking work in robotics has fascinated me for years. Seeing as Janelle Monae has an android alter-ego, picking this track was a no-brainer. Also – you can never have too much Janelle Monae.

Sarah Lotz and The Three links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Associated Press review
BookPage review
Guardian review
Independent review
Kirkus review

Complex interview with the author
Mysteristas review
Omnivoracious essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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