- Series: The Last Policeman Trilogy (Book 2)
- Paperback: 316 pages
- Publisher: Quirk Books; First Edition edition (July 16, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594746265
- ISBN-13: 978-1594746260
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 358 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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I disagree on that point, however. I still paused every so often to think about how terribly mundane some of the things Henry Palace did, or tried to do, and how pointless it all seemed. But that's the real lure of these books, I think. You can't not think about what you'd do in a similar situation. That's Henry's salient quality--his perseverance in the face of absolutely certain disaster, his humanity remaining when most folks have abandoned theirs, and his ability to still care about someone, or several someones, at his own expense.
This middle book in the trilogy seemed more thoughtful, more nuanced, than the first. I also thought there was enough "action" to keep the tale moving forward at a steady enough pace, though perhaps readers who are fans of the "fast and furious" type of plot might not agree. The complex relationship between Henry and his younger sister, Nico, does not get any less complex, but now we see more of the background between them. The secondary characters, like Martha and her oddly motivated husband, Brett, are also far from one- or even two-dimensional people, which is one of the author's strengths, I think. Nothing and no one in this imaginative pre-apocalyptic world is quite what you believe.
I'm already settling down with the last book in this trilogy.
The story is very dystopian. All of human civilization is degenerating into chaos, but Henry Palace tries to keep a toehold on reality and civilized behavior. The descriptions are easy to believe, knowing what we already know about the human condition. The author did deal with it, however, by having one of his former-detective friends deal with it.
The first half of the story drags a bit, but becomes more gripping as the story progresses. The ending was a bit surprising, and it left me mildly unsatisfied. This book was not as good as the first of the series, The Last Policeman, but it still was a pretty good effort. Good enough for an award of three stars, at any rate.
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.