Review: Countdown City (The Last Policeman II)

BCountdown Cityy Ben H. Winters

Quirk, out now

77 days until the end of life on Earth – and policeman Hank Palace starts to investigate a missing person…

Following on from the highly-acclaimed The Last Policeman comes this second story in the trilogy, which has all the strengths of the first book – an excellent combination of detective and science fiction novel – but takes things to a new level, as civilisation continues to collapse around former policeman Henry Palace.

Hank’s investigations are hampered by the fact that people are disappearing for very different reasons now – fulfilling their bucket list dreams, simply choosing to go it alone, or losing their minds – but he continues to be tenacious, despite the fact that the world is falling apart around him. Along the way he encounters many people who have their own way of dealing with the situation, but never does he seem to realise what the reader does – that his dogged pursuit of his investigation is, in its own way, just as futile as the student sitting desperately trying to read as much as he can before the end of the world, not even moving from his desk to urinate.

Winters has upended the traditional post-apocalyptic tale with this trilogy, as the human race begins to cull itself long before the disaster arrives. By the end of the book, there’s not that long to go until the 3rd October, and the arrival of the meteorite which will spell the end of life as everyone knew it. Part of me hopes that some of the theories propagated more clearly in this novel than the first may come to pass and there is a way out of it – but given the way in which many people behave in this novel (there’s a particularly sickening sequence which Hank is powerless to stop), you have to ask: do they deserve another chance?

Verdict: A strong continuation of a clever idea in this Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel. 8/10

Paul Simpson

 

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