Monday, September 1, 2014

World of Trouble: Ben H. Winters


World of Trouble is Book III in the The Last Policeman trilogy, following the activities of policeman Hank Palace in a pre-apocalyptic world. An asteroid is headed for earth, and from the beginning of the series we know that it will be devastating. In the first book, The Last Policeman, Hank was still a detective with the police force, new to the job, and motivated to continue investigating cases. Three months later, in Countdown City, like almost everyone else on earth, he had no job and no prospects, but he took a case for an old friend.  In the final book, Hank goes on an odyssey to try to locate his sister before the asteroid hits. If you haven't read any of the series, you should start at the beginning to get the full enjoyment of this book.

My husband does a good job of covering the essentials in his review at Goodreads:
This bleak volume concludes “The Last Policeman” trilogy and it finds protagonist Henry Palace - in the face of impending planetary doom - still methodical, still by the book, and still never giving up. By now he is a physical and emotional wreck and is using what little of himself and of time that remains to search (still) for his beloved sister. Except for compatriot Cortez, a thuggish man who seems mostly in it all for himself, the world appears to be mostly empty, devoid of people. Most memorably, Palace does encounter an enclave of Amish farmers carrying on as before and a couple seeing out the last days with generator-powered lights and music, home brew, and chickens. This strong trilogy is a mystery, a procedural, and an apocalyptic thriller and should be read in its entirety and in order.
I know that this book will be in my top ten for the year. The trilogy is wonderful, and this is a fitting end to it. It is not a feel good book, but I did not find it depressing.

Some quotes from the book follow. Hank is describing the system that he and Cortez use to describe the state of towns they go through:
We called the towns with color names because of the package of multicolored Post-it Notes that Cortez had; he had them left over from his Office Depot warehouse. When we left a town behind us we would assign it a color, just keeping track, just to keep ourselves amused. All the degrees of dissolution, the differing extents to which each town or city had collapsed under the weight of all this unbearable imminence. Red towns were those seething with active violence: towns on fire, towns beset by marauding bands, daylight shootings, food foragers and food defenders, homes under siege. Only occasionally did we encounter active organized law enforcement... 
Green towns were just the opposite, communities where it seemed like some sort of agreement had been made, spoken or implied, to plug along. Folks raking leaves, pushing strollers, waving good morning. Dogs on leashes or bounding after Frisbees. In Media, Ohio, we were astonished to hear the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song being sung lustily by three hundred or more people in a public park at dusk...
Black towns are empty. Blue towns feel empty, but they're not, they're just so quiet they might as well be. They're empty except for occasional scurrying, nervous souls darting from one place to another, some feeling safer in the day, some at night. Peeking out of windows, clutching guns, measuring out what they've got left.
Some thoughts on the series:

Hank Palace is a character that the reader can grow to love. I did not understand Hank (because my choices would be different), but I liked him and I enjoyed getting to know him. I think the author is gifted at making the character believable and fleshed out.

Every book in the series made me ponder what I would do in a similar situation. I can empathize with wanting to continue to work and do what one is good at. My husband and I are both close to retirement age yet have little desire to retire. Working may be tiring mentally and physically, but it is also fulfilling and we like being out in the world participating. However, in situations like the characters in this trilogy are subjected to, work does lose its meaning, and especially if everyone around you is bailing on jobs and relationships. And the jobs disappear and the infrastructure of society crumbles. What do you do then?

This trilogy has motivated me to seek out other pre- and post-apocalyptic books. I did enjoy World War Z for the same reasons. It is much more about how and why people survived and how the changes affected them than about zombies. (This is true of the book, not the movie.)

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Publisher:  Quirk Books, 2014
Length:      316 pages
Format:     Trade paperback
Series:       Last Policeman Book III
Setting:      USA
Genre:       Mystery, Science Fiction
Source:      Borrowed from my husband

16 comments:

  1. Tracy - Thanks as ever for your excellent review. This trilogy shows clearly that a novel (or series!) doesn't have to be 'feel good' to be brilliantly written and have strong characters. And there's something about a trilogy that just...works for this sort of story.

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    1. Margot, I do like trilogies, because they don't go on forever.

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  2. I liked the first volume a lot but maybe not enough to want to spend more time in that world. Maybe when things in this world look better I will have the nerve.

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    1. The first volume was my favorite, Patti. I had to continue to see how it all played out, and it did not disappoint me. This world can be pretty scary.

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  3. TracyK: I normally do not read this sub-genre. Your review intrigues me. Perhaps I will go looking for the opening book of the trilogy.

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    1. Bill, this series is a very good read. And I can understand why you would avoid this type of fiction.

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  4. I've been meaning to get to this series since it began 2+ years ago-- eek.

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    1. The good thing about waiting, Rebecca, is that you don't have to wait a year between each one. (I think you said that to me once, about some other series.) I deliberately waited for book 3 to publish before I read book 2, because I forget too much between books. I hope you do read them someday.

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  5. Tracy, you have certainly got me interested in books by both Ben H. Winters and Max Brooks considering that I have a liking for apocalyptic books.

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    1. Prashant, I like both of those authors. And would like to read more by both of them someday.

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  6. You've certainly sold me on these, but I need to catch up with the first two books....

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    1. I hope you will like them, Moira. Definitely read in order. And let me know what you think.

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  7. I have heard nothing but fantastic things about this series and so, even though it's not something I'd normally pick up, I'm feeling tempted! Great review :)

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    1. The topic (end of the world) is not one I have sought out in the past, Katie, but the crime fiction element pulled me in, of course. But that element is less and less as the series progresses. The books are just so good.

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  8. I'm kind of tempted but not enough I don't think. I'll see if I come across the first one when I'm out browsing maybe.

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    1. Maybe not your favorite kind of book. Even though I loved the trilogy as a whole, I still am most fond of the first one. So I say it is worth a try if you ever run into it.

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