“I keep my head down and my mind focused on the case because I’m sick of wondering why I’m doing this, why I care. This is just what I have, this is what I do.”
..and with that, Hank Palace gives us an answer to why he’s so goddamn determined to run around playing detective in the face of certain doom. With Countdown City, Ben H. Winters takes us back to Concord, New Hampshire, less than 3 months until impact. In just 77 days, Maia will collide with Earth and the impact along with the resulting chaos will bring humanity to the brink of extinction. As we’re brought back into Concord, there are barely any utilities up and running, people are stockpiling food and weapons and everyone is looking over their shoulders – no one is to be trusted.
Despite a tendency to go “bucket list” – leaving your life behind to pursue your dreams – Martha Catavone approaches Hank, asking him to find her missing husband. Given the sordid state of society, Hank is doubtful he’ll turn anything up. However, without much left to do and considering the history he shares with Martha, he’s determined to give it a shot.
With the end of the world lingering on the horizon, Palace struggles to keep his mind on the case although he also still has to deal with his sister Nico’s whereabouts. It’s discovered that Nico has joined up with a group that are certain they’ve found a way to curb the aftereffects of the asteroid’s impact but Hank remains skeptical. As a result, he damages his relationship with his sister.
It was just a few weeks ago that I put down The Last Policeman. While I wasn’t ecstatic about it, I did champion its originality as well as Winters’ writing. For whatever reason, I wasn’t aware that the sequel had been scheduled to hit shelves so soon and when I caught a glimpse of it as I entered a bookstore, I snagged it right away.
It basically came down to needing to know where things were headed. I only assumed that in Winters’ second installment, society would continue to degrade as more and more people would begin to accept their fate. Anyone who follows my reviews will know that I’m a huge fan of post apocalyptic fiction. There’s something about the way humanity deals with this Armageddon that fascinates me. While Winters continues to focus heavily on Concord and Palace’s world, he also gives a broader view of the way others are dealing with it. For example, the United States is dealing with a massive influx of refugees who threaten to spread North America’s dwindling resources thin. Their response, while understandable, is a little frightening.
There’s something about the writing in these books that is just flat out addictive. It moves so quickly and smoothly that I flew through large chunks of the novel without even realizing it. While I didn’t find anything drastically wrong with The Last Policeman, I just found Countdown City a more enjoyable read. It probably has something to do with Hank Palace becoming a more sympathetic character. He’s more or less stripped of any authority and is constantly trying to do so much with so little. You’ve got to hand it to him, the man does not give up easily.
I can’t wait to see where Winters goes from here. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to. With no scheduled release date available outside of “2014”, I’ll be frothing at the mouth to get my hands on Book III when the time comes.
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