World of Trouble (The Last Policeman Book 3)
Written by: Ben H. Winters
Published by: Quirk Books
World of Trouble
(The Last Policeman Book 3)
by Ben H. Winters
One of the great attractions of Civilization Collapses stories (Zombies, Viruses, Neo-Reaganomics, whatever) is that the credit card bill is not going to arrive in the mail this month; no forced laughs at the boss’s joke at the weekly staff meeting; you won’t have to endure a visit from your insufferable Uncle Otto because if Uncle Otto does visit you in your barricaded cave in the woods, you’ll plug him with your shotgun and pickle him for a later meal.
In other words, all of the obligations of civilization fall away.
Author Ben H. Winters has a different take.
In his THE LAST POLICEMAN trilogy of detective novels, we see the progressive decay of civilization due to the imminent arrival of Earth-destroying asteroid Maia. The first-person, present-tense narrator throughout is Henry Palace, a Concord, New Hampshire police officer. Hank Palace is an intriguing combination of dogged cynicism and idealistic innocence; he’d pay that last credit card bill.
In all three novels, he spends his (precious!) time solving serious crimes (murder, missing persons) even though he knows that all of this will be rendered moot when Maia hits. Yet, like the private detectives played by Humphrey Bogart in classic films noir, he keeps his own moral code no matter the corrupted world around him.
THE LAST POLICEMAN won the Edgar award for Best Paperback Original, and the trilogy’s fan base seems to be mostly mystery readers. That is a shame, because the books are also sense-of-wonder, Big-Question science fiction. Indeed, if mystery stories are about restoring order to the universe, then THE LAST POLICEMAN trilogy is the exact opposite.
THE LAST POLICEMAN came out in 2012, COUNTDOWN CITY in 2013, and now, WORLD OF TROUBLE in July 2014. (Take that, George R. R. Martin!)
In THE LAST POLICEMAN, we are several months into the crisis, but civilization is kind-of still functioning. Paper money is still accepted, but absenteeism is huge and the electricity is getting spotty. In the face of official indifference, Henry Palace investigates a “suicide” that he believes is a murder.
The Last Policeman Series
In COUNTDOWN CITY, the decay is further along. The government is in charge pretty much in name only. Henry Palace takes a private commission to find a missing person, traveling across a New England that is devolving into the Dark Ages.
Then, in WORLD OF TROUBLE, the greatest possible thing happens: the asteroid hits on the last page.
If Ben H. Winters had strung me along for three books with the pathos of Earth’s imminent destruction, and had then pulled a Bobby-Ewing-steps-out-of-the-shower-and-his-death-last-season-was-ONLY-A-DREAM, I would have had to lead a procession of fans to his home with torches and coiled rope. (And so would you. So don’t give me any crap about “spoilers.”)
Ben H. Winters’ vision of the pre-Apocalypse is worth savoring in ways both big and small: a woman going to a costume party dressed up as the asteroid; pliable recent high school graduates being given police uniforms and Uzis and told to do absolutely nothing but keep open rioting from happening on the street; a woman pointing an assault rifle at Henry Palace as her friends loot a big box store and Palace reflecting that a year ago she would have been hunched over her cell phone checking email.
Reviewed by Eric Cline