Monday, August 11, 2014
Countdown City by Ben H. Winters
Synopsis From Back Cover:
There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth and Detective Hank Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over... until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.
Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace - an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone's gone "bucket list" or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend of "impact zone" refugees.
It's been over two years since I read the first book in this trilogy, The Last Policeman, and I'm really at a loss to explain why it's taken so long to read the second. I can't even use the excuse that I didn't have the book, I can honestly say I've had this one laying around for far too long. I'm actually a little embarrassed by it, and feeling just a tad bit of shame.
Obviously I loved The Last Policeman, and I loved Hank Palace. That love hasn't diminished, it's only grown after reading Countdown City. Hank Palace is an archetypal character who breaks the mold. He's the hero, but he's still an everyday man, doing the best he can in a world gone to hell. He is a man of principal and character, and one who does his duty, when most of the world has given up. He is who I would want to be in that sort of a situation, but I'm almost positive I could not live up to that ideal. But even more, he's the man I would want at my side, in any capacity, should the world be close to ending. And yes, he will have his very own FFC post at some point in time.
Even with a stellar character, and a plot that continues to move along at a steady pace, no book it guaranteed to be a winner. When you factor in the author, Ben H. Winters, you are guaranteed a winner. I'm in love with the way he writes, and the way he develops his worlds. I fell in love with him when I read Bedbugs for the first time, a book I still view as one of the best horror novels ever written. In all three books of his that I've read, he has created a fully realized 4-D environment. He used the simplest details and descriptions to create a truly believable world, given the parameters he is creating it in. His prose has a lyrical simplicity, that allows the reader to truly get immersed in the writing, and in the world.
With only 77 days until a massive comet slams into the world, producing an event that will cause the extinction of the human race, the tension is ratcheted up from the previous book. Everyone seems to be more on edge, and humanity is starting to give in to it's basest nature. It's in that environment that Hank is at work, trying to find the missing husband of a former babysitter, and crush. He is having to rely on, and work with those he may not have much in common with, or particularly like, but he's given his word, and a man like Hank does not go back on that.
I could ramble on for another twenty paragraphs or so, but I'm not going to subject you to that. Instead I'll hit a few more points. Brett is a lot like Hank, despite his running off on his wife. He is another archetypal hero, and one that I was sorry to see not sticking around. We get to see Hank with his sister again, probably the most important relationship in his life, and I was glad to see her. I really want to stress that this isn't your typical mystery novel. It explores themes that most authors shy away from, let alone genre writers. This book is about our relationships with each other, and to society in general. It's also about the strengths, and weaknesses, of the human condition. It explores who we are in the face of adversity, and almost certain death. But most of all, it's a book about love and hope in the face of hardship.
You will never hear me not recommend this series, or any book by Ben H. Winters. So please go out and get The Last Policeman. Then follow it up with Countdown City and the third book, World of Trouble. I have a review of that one coming up next week.