Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Countdown City: Ben H. Winters

In July, I read three books that I borrowed from my husband, and two of them dealt with apocalyptic events. Countdown City deals with how people react when an asteroid is hurtling toward the earth and certain to do a lot of damage. The other one was World War Z, which was about the world after it has been overrun by zombies. Both lead to equally horrific consequences, although in Countdown City the reader witnesses the impending doom of the approaching asteroid and its very negative consequences.

This was the second book in a trilogy, following the activities of a former policeman, Hank Palace, pursuing a missing person case in a pre-apocalyptic world. In the first book of this trilogy, Hank was still a detective with the police force. He was new to the job, and enjoying having attained his dream job before the discovery of the asteroid. Now, three months later, like almost everyone else on earth, he has no job and no prospects.

This is a thought-provoking novel. It is impossible not to think about what you would do in similar circumstances. Or even think about how life can change in just a moment. And along with this intelligent story of the destruction of the civilization that we take for granted we get a mystery story. Not a police procedural like the first one. This one is more similar to a private detective novel.


My husband's excellent review at Goodreads:
In this, the second volume of "The Last Policeman" trilogy, Hank Palace has been asked to locate the missing husband of an old friend. The unraveling of a world rather than the search is really the point here and Palace, no longer even a police detective, seems to be running on sheer hard-wired devotion to the job.
I found this volume different in tone from the first (very fatalistic vs. somewhat hopeful). More people have purposely gone away or simply vanished. Of those that remain some seem to be planning for a rescue from the end of the world and others are just carrying on. Here we also see a shadowy and brutal military presence.
Overall, an excellent continuation of the story. Can't wait to see how this concludes in the third volume.
Other reviews:
At In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel.
At Crimepieces.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Quirk Books, 2013
Length:       316 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:        Last Policeman Book II
Setting:       New Hampshire, USA
Genre:         Mystery
Source:       Borrowed from my husband

20 comments:

  1. Tracy, it'd be interesting to see how a detective can have anything to do in the course of an apocalyptic event. I mean there is not much he can do, unlike in the first of the trilogy. I'll certainly look up this series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, that is one of the aspects of the story, that he really cannot do much. The usual avenues aren't there. I liked this so much that I read it in about 3 hours in one evening, and that is very unusual for me.

      Delete
  2. I can't honestly remember whether I bought the first one or decided to avoid the series TBH. If I went with the avoid option, I'm tempted to re-consider!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did really, really like this book, Col, and Glen is enjoying the third one so far, although only partially through with it. Reads really fast. But I cannot say if it would appeal to you or not.

      Delete
  3. Tracy - An excellent choice for a review. It's not easy to pull off a compelling crime fiction story and depicting a posts apocalyptic world, but Winters does it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am really enjoying this trilogy, Margot, and will be getting to the final book soon. I wonder what he will do next.

      Delete
  4. Glad you enjoyed this - you'll love the third one, as, on consideration, this is actually the weakest of the three. Still outstanding, but the others are slightly more so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, I am looking forward to reading the 3rd book. I am glad I held off on this one until I had both available.

      Delete
  5. I have to get these TracyK, they sound really fascinating - from an allegorical standpoint of course I think that end of world narratives seem more and more meaningful these days so it is always a pleasure to see a thoughtful approach to theme - I will definitely get these - thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, Sergio, the last two books I read on this topic (end of world) push me toward finding more of these. I haven't actively avoided them, but they never appealed before.

      Delete
  6. Wasn't a fan of this one though the plot was much improved over THE LAST POLICEMAN. Interesting that you liken it to a private eye novel and I found it to be more of an adventure novel. I like how Winters envisioned the last days of a crumbling civilization throughout this trilogy. That's the real draw I think. The way he has his unusual characters adapting to life as the end draws ever closer. Lots of original ideas, nothing trivial or cliche. So much of it made sense; I could see people behaving like this unlike some of the more ridiculously imagined plots in apocalyptic movies I've seen. I especially liked how Hank Palace divided the communities into certain types and how the seemingly silent and still ones were the ones he feared the most. The third and final volume WORLD OF TROUBLE is truly the best, IMO. It has the best mystery plot, the best detection and the best supporting cast of the three books. It was my favorite and it has a powerful pay off. I reviewed it here on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am waiting for my husband to finish World of Trouble so I can read it. I did see that you reviewed that one and was waiting until I read it myself before I read all of your review. I agree, the behavior of the people adapting to the end of the world is believable, although I would rather believe in a world with less chaos. I was less concerned about the mystery story than how the events were affecting Hank and his community. You are much better at evaluating books than I. I tend to react and miss a lot of detail.

      Delete
  7. I've been meaning to catch up on the first of these - not my usual thing, but the views of you and others have made me put him on my list. I will get to him. Have you heard of the book Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel, which is out soon? Again, I didn't think it was my sort of thing, but I liked it very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I have never been into apocalyptic fiction to a great extent, either, but this series seemed interesting, combined with a mystery, and besides, my husband bought the books, so I did not have to. After the first one, I was hooked.

      I have not heard of Station 11 but it does sound interesting. I will have to find out more about it. Will you be reviewing it?

      Delete
  8. I can't wait to see how it comcludes either, Tracy. I know book 3 is out - I just need to get around to obtaining a copy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I find it hard to define what I like about these books so much. I really like that they are a fast read. I get totally immersed.

      Delete
  9. I plan to read this trilogy. Your review actually convinced me to give it a shot. I usually give apocalyptic stuff a wide berth. Also, FYI, I tried commenting earlier but my comment never showed up. Not sure what Blogger is doing my words..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad that you will read this series, Keishon. I hope you enjoy it. I sometimes have difficulty replying on my own blog and leaving comments on other Blogger blogs. I don't know what the problem is. (Like right now I had to do it twice... oh well.)

      Delete
  10. Love this book, love the trilogy, and love the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Me too. Well, still not gotten to book 3 yet, but anticipating loving it too.

    ReplyDelete