World of Trouble
by Ben H. Winters
5 out of 5 planet killing asteroids.
(I won this ARC from Goodreads.)
I think that one of the bright spots about knowing that an asteroid is going to hit the Earth would be that no one could ever say again, “Cheer up. It’s not the end of the world!”
There are only a few days left until the hunk of space rock called Maia will collide with the Earth and almost certainly wipe out humanity. Hank Palace, a former police detective, is on one last case of a highly personal nature. He’s trying to track down his rebellious sister Nico who is with a group she claims can stop the asteroid by locating a scientist who is being held as part of some kind of vast conspiracy that is allowing Maia to impact Earth.
With his dog and a talented scrounger he’s not sure he can entirely trust, Hank has made his way through complete anarchy on his way from New England to a police station in small Ohio town where his last clue has led him to believe Nico and her wacky pals are waiting to rendezvous with the scientist. However, when they arrive instead of finding Nico, Hank makes a couple of other shocking discoveries. Can he solve the mystery of his missing sister before time runs out once and for all?
I don’t think I’ve ever done such a 180 on a character like I have on Hank Palace. In The Last Policeman when Maia was six months out and society was still pretty much intact, Hank was an earnest detective whose insistence on doing things by the book and dogged determination at mounting a murder investigation in the face of Armageddon made him seem like his own denial and urge to play cop wasted the time of other people, and wasting someone else’s time seems almost as bad as murder in this scenario. (Now that I’ve read all three books, I’m going to give The Last Policeman an extra star.)
However, in Countdown City when Hank was no longer a cop but still followed an investigation to the bitter end, he seemed more like a guy just trying to cling to some semblance of responsibility and decency even as everyone else was running off to fulfill their bucket list, committing suicide or just going crazy. Here, with only days left Hank still thinks that there’s a proper way to do things, and he continues taking extensive notes when talking to people and walks around a dead body like the CSI guys are going to show up at any moment to process the evidence.
It’s not exactly denial because Hank knows full well what’s coming and that he has very little time to find Nico, but he’s still helpless to resist his compulsion to know every little detail as if he can die satisfied if only he knew the whole story.
Ben Winters also showed a low key strain of creative world ending in how he’s established the way that that things have fallen apart gradually over the course of this trilogy. Hank started out as a patrolman getting to live his dream of being a detective when other cops have started walking off the job and there were still some structure and rules in place. Now that the end is really near, Hank is just another guy wandering through dangerous territory trying to satisfy one last personal quest before the big boom.
This ended up being an exceptionally good story with a great premise that Winters fully delivered on with his flawed but ultimately relatable main character.
One final note, and this is a total spoiler about the ending so stop if you haven't read the book!!
*SPOILER* I also give Winters a lot of credit for actually going ahead and ending the world. With Nico’s story about the scientist in the last book, I was worried that he’d go the route of some kind of conspiracy thriller in which Hank ends up saving the world from Maia or something along those lines. I’m very glad that the whole thing turned out to be a lie and that Hank spent his final hours seeking companionship rather than answers