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Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II (The Last Policeman Trilogy) Paperback – July 16, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
In this sequel to Edgar Award-winning The Last Policeman, Winters intensifies his vision of a lawless apocalyptic society as an asteroid nicknamed "Maia" continues its deadly trajectory toward Earth. Impact: October 3rd. Seventy-seven days from when the narrative picks up. Set in Concord, N.H., where the police force is fraying and money has no value, people are frantically fleeing the Eastern Hemisphere to seek refuge from Maia's direct path, amidst hundreds of U.S. citizens who are simply disappearing. Narrator and straight-laced detective Hank Palace has lost his job, but he still can't resist helping his childhood babysitter Martha Cavatone locate her missing husband. With the end of the world nigh—and a bike as his only mode of transportation—this is no easy task. Clues lead Palace to a colonization of radicals who've overtaken the University of New Hampshire and followed by a forsaken coastal fort used to execute catastrophe immigrants as they approach the shore. While not as well paced or marvelously original as its predecessor, this second installment in a planned trilogy is darker, more violent and more oppressive. Through it all Palace remains a likeable hero for end times, and with Concord already in ruins, readers are left to wonder how he'll survive to tell his final tale. (July)
For those who haven’t read The Last Policeman (2012), here’s what you need to know: the world is doomed. An asteroid is going to smash into the planet earth in the very near future. Society is in disarray. A lot of people have already checked out, via suicide or just vanishing entirely. Law and order is more of an idea than a practical reality. Hank Palace is a police officer—well, he used to be, before the police department was shut down a few months ago. Now, like most people, he’s unemployed. When an old friend asks him to find her missing husband, Hank reluctantly agrees. But how do you find a missing person when half the people in the country aren’t where they’re supposed to be? As with the first Hank Palace novel (this is volume 2 of a projected trilogy), the mystery element is strong, and the strange, pre-apocalyptic world is highly imaginative and also very plausible—it’s easy to think that the impending end of the world might feel very much like this. Genre mash-up master Winters is at it again. --David Pitt
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Thereafter, Henry is on his mission with single-minded fixation, even though it takes him to the crazy, rapidly-emerging anarchic world of virtual governmental collapse. We travel with Henry to the headquarters of Homeland Security in Concord to the "Free Republic" of New Hampshire University and back to Concord. The story is pulled along as Henry follows the clues to the ultimate conclusion.
All along, of course, we are kept reminded of the imminent end of the world. What that means, or how total it will be, are still ambiguous, but the sense of hopelessness and a terminal event are felt as the survivors grow increasingly desperate. A recurrent theme is the question of why Henry is trying to solve a mystery which will never result in any criminal charges or improve anyone's happiness. The story offers some opportunities to explore some deep issues. For example:
"Among my regrets about what has just unfolded is that Brett never did ask me why I had come to find him, why I cared. I had my answer all figured out. Because a promise is a promise, Officer Cavatone, and civilization is just a bunch of promises, that’s all it is. A mortgage, a wedding vow, a promise to obey the law, a pledge to enforce it. And now the world is falling apart, the whole rickety world, and every broken promise is a small rock tossed at the wooden side of its tumbling form."
I think I liked this story better than the first. Henry is growing on me with his simple dedication and decency. I am also enjoying the development of this world of the end of days and the question of what would a person do in the face of utter meaninglessness. Winters pens some nice thoughts:
"“You are a married man,” I say. I’m pressing my luck. He stares back at me in silence, impassive as a mountainside. “Your wife is confused. You’ve left her terrified and alone. You can’t just abandon your promises because the world is over.”
And then there is this:
“Where’s Brett, Henry?” says poor Martha, and I just tell her, I say, “He’s dead,” and she collapses to the ground on her knees, buries her face in her hands and wails, one long keening senseless syllable. That’s the end of the world right there for Martha Milano."
The end of the world comes for all of us, just a bit differently for each of us.
The basic question of the series is how would people and societies react to the knowledge that the world is going to end in less than a year. What would you do as an individual and what effects of that would ripple through society.
The author proposes several behaviors: suicide, "bucket listing,"denial, violence, religion, drugs, dissolution of marriage, abandonment of children, simply disappearing.
Our guy, a detective in a smallish city in Vermont, sticks with his profession...as much as possible.
In the first book, he doggedly pursues what he considers a murder investigation while his colleges interpret it as one of many, many recent suicides. In the second, he searches for a husband who has disappeared. In the the third, the apocalypse is imminent. He decides to search out his sister who has fallen in with a conspiracy theorist group claiming that the asteroid hurtling toward the Earth's destruction is actually some sort of government plot.
In each of these endeavours, our hero meets significant challenges, physical, psychological, and moral. His resolution of each of these brings the reader along even when the story itself fails in some regards. There are certainly sections that are not believable, especially when viewed in light of events later in the books.
I found myself reading the second book as soon as I finished the first, and the third as soon as I finished the second. And I like that the author completed the story in each book while leaving the reader (me) craving more. I personally hate getting to the end of a book and finding that I have to read the next one to find out what happens. This series does not do that.