Friday, July 19, 2013

Review of "Countdown City" [54]

Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H. Winters
Quirk Books, ISBN 978-1594746260
July 16, 2013, 320 pages

If the world were going to end in a few weeks, 77 days to be precise, what would you do?
Run off and do something you always wanted to do like learn to surf or have an affair or see the Pacific Ocean?
Or end it yourself before the giant asteroid on it's inevitable path, hurtling toward Earth, has the chance to?
Or perhaps, like former police detective Hank Palace, your just try to keep on doing your job.

Former job, because in this new, shortly to end world the government doesn't see a role for solving crime. No, the only police left are the para-military, now under the auspices of the Justice Department who are just trying to keep, not too successfully, some degree of public order.

But when someone from Hanks past, his former childhood babysitter, comes to him, heartbroken, comes to him, he can not say no. Her husband, who promises to stay by her side until the end, has disappeared and Hank take the job and try and track him down.
"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 off “impact zone” refugees."
Perhaps the highest praise I can give this book is for all the entertainment value of a good "whodunnit", I found this book quite disturbing. Yes, parts of it are grim, society breaking down, people attacking others, but not horrible in anyway. No, the scary part is how ordinary, how believable it all is. Food become scarce because no one is working on the farms, driving the truck. No one to come to your aid when someone is breaking into your house, except the gun you hid when the government tried to take them all away to preserve 'order'. No electricity, no phones, but the real fear, and rightfully so, is what will happen when the water from the taps stops flowing.
So why does Hank go off on this quest?
"Because a promise is a promise...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 endorse 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."
Hank will not be the one throwing rocks.

This is the second book in the promised Last Policeman trilogy and while I loved the first book, this one is every bit as good. Maybe even a little better because we get a bit more insight into Hank and Hank is the heart and soul of this book. Not that the other characters are not interesting, because they are, from Hank's sister, to his former co-workers, the elderly waitress at the diner they frequented, to the Utopian seeking mix at the local University of New Hampshire.

And I loved that two of the rare examples of order involved book lovers. First there are the librarians and volunteers that were keeping the local library open 24/7, a rare safe place among the chaos and second, the small group of university students who had moved into the college library, a pile of books beside them, just reading and reading and reading until the Big One hits. When society collapses, stick with the book lovers. Sounds pretty good to me!
This is a book that explores the 'big ideas', but doesn't hit you over the head going it.

And then there is Hank's dog, Houdini, happily his companion on his journey riding in a little trailer behind Hank's bike, with the bottles of water, energy bars and some bags of dog food. If the world is going to end, Big Fat Cat Larry I have to tell you I am getting a puppy dog to share the space in the trailer with you. And a Big Pile of Books.

Highly recommended!

My thanks to the author and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review. 


  1. I liked the second one better I think.

  2. I am very intrigued. I think book one and then two will be my next read!!

  3. Everyone seems to like this one more than the first in the series so I'm mad at myself for not taking it.

  4. What Kathy said!! And it's rare that the second book in a trilogy is *better* than the first.

    1. I think his writing was a bit better..I think the plot was a bit better..I think the character development was a bit better...and I say this having very much liked the first.

  5. Nice to read your thoughts on this book! I read the first one and liked it, so I'm looking forward to reading this second one.

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