Review of “World of Trouble” by Ben H. Winters

Note: There are no spoilers, except as clearly marked.

This is the third book in a pre-apocalyptic/noir/police-procedural series set in more-or-less current times.

Henry (“Hank”) Palace, 29, is a police detective in Concord, New Hampshire, who got promoted from patrol officer because basically everybody else walked off the job. In fact, people all over the world walked off their jobs, because “Maia,” a 6.5-kilometer-diameter asteroid, is on a collision course with the earth. It will, according to reliable sources, cause a series of interlocking cataclysms resulting in the immediate death of at least half the world’s population, with later deaths to follow.

In the first book in this trilogy, The Last Policeman, there were six months left until the date of collision. In Book Two, Countdown City, only 77 days remained. In this final installment of the series, there are only 14 days left until impact.

worldoftrouble_benhwinters

In the previous books, we learned that many people have committed suicide, committed murder, joined religious sects, zoned out on drugs, or got to work stocking up a basement with any supplies that could be saved or stolen. But being a policeman is what has always made sense to Hank, so that’s what he still does, even without pay.

Now he is using what he thinks is his remaining time to find his younger sister Nico. Nico, long a rebel and an iconoclast, is part of a group that contends the path of the asteroid can be diverted by a pinpoint nuclear explosion, with a theoretical success probability of 85%. The group believes that the government has imprisoned the scientist who can make this “standoff burst” happen, and so they are working against the cosmic clock to try to free him and save the world.

In Book Two, Hank got impatient and angry with Nico:

“I told her this was delusional. I told her this was Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and she was being a fool, and then she disappeared and I let her go.”

In this book, although Hank still believes that he is right and Nico is wrong, he is obsessed with finding her in order to make up for their final bitter conversation, hug her, and apologize for letting her go. Hank and Nico are polar opposites, but they love each other; they are all each other has left of a family. Hank cannot bear to think of not reconciling before whatever is coming. But concurrent with his quest, he feels compelled to keep trying to help uphold the moral order and “do the right thing”, even though there is no longer much justification for any of it.

Spoilery Discussion:

WARNING: SKIP THIS NEXT SECTION TO AVOID SPOILERS AND SCROLL DOWN TO EVALUATION.

What makes this pre-apocalyptic trilogy unique is that Winters actually allows the apocalypse to happen. There are no last minute saves, no dei ex machina, no Bill Pullman getting in the fighter plane and taking out the enemy. The world ends. Before it does so, Winters takes us on a tour of most of the possible reactions you might see to impending doom by an approaching asteroid: religious hysteria, crime sprees, sex sprees, psychosis, drugs, denial – but then there is Hank Palace, keeping on keeping on, cycling through the country in search of his younger sister. He is almost oblivious to the dangers that keep getting thrown in his path; nothing can stop him in his crusade. And in the end, he experiences a kind of redemption, in a lovely bittersweet dénouement reminiscent of On the Beach by Nevil Shute (a story known to most people by the still-amazingly good 1959 movie adaptation starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins).

END OF SPOILERS

Evaluation: I thought this third book was the best in the series, rather than following the usual pattern of a trilogy starting out great and then petering out by the end. Although I never really connected with either Hank or Nico, the story certainly is thought-provoking – what would you do, if you thought the world would end in six months?

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Quirk Books, 2014

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7 Responses to Review of “World of Trouble” by Ben H. Winters

  1. sandynawrot says:

    *grumble* Still waiting for the library to get the audio!!! I really have enjoyed the first two books in this series, not for character development, but just for the premise and the societal implications. How much fun, to be a cop in a lawless time! I will admit, I’ve not really “connected” with Hank either, but to me he has always seemed just a quirk shy of being on the spectrum, you know? Or maybe just really OCD. He is really unlike any character I’ve seen lately. He’s not your typical alcoholic divorced cop. He’s weird and righteous and a little innocent, almost obnoxiously so.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I quit after the first book because it was just okay for me. Everyone has been saying this is the best of the trilogy so now I’m wondering if I need to finish the trilogy.

  3. SPOILERS IN THIS COMMENT DO NOT READ IT OTHER COMMENTERS. I’m really glad to hear that there’s no last-minute reprieve. Poor old world. It is sad, but it’s fitting with the rest of the series — it would have felt like a very big cheat for it to go differently.

  4. Sounds good but skipped the spoiler part as I have not read and of this series.

  5. Rachel says:

    This sounds like a great series, I’ll have to check it out now that the third book is out. Since, my memory is so bad, I like to wait on most trilogies till all three books are out so I can read them all in a row.

  6. Not sure about this series. If the world is going to end, I would like to be able to connect with the main character if I am going to be journeying with him in his final days. I will check it out further to decide–thanks.

  7. Ok Jill..I missed the question at the end, what would you do, if you thought the world would end in six months? I would like to think I would spend that time gathering family and friends close and going out with a trouble free heart believing I was the best I could be and holding no grudges or anger towards anyone…. BUT in reality – I am guessing the world would be in panic and survival mode so everyone would be hording and pillaging trying to survive because that is the way we are wired…. thus – making my peace plan fly out the door and now I am boarding up windows and loading up on ammunition 😉

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