Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters

Countdown CityA couple months ago I read The Last Policeman and liked it rather a lot, so when I found out that a) there were two sequels, and b) the second sequel is coming out in just a couple more months, I was like, well, obviously I’ve got to get on reading that first sequel!

So I did, and it was excellent, but just not quite as excellent as the original. Oh, series, why can you not just be uniformly awesome?

At the start of this book, our intrepid hero Hank Palace is no longer a detective, the detectives in Concord having been disbanded due to what good are they anyway when an asteroid is going to take care of all those criminals in just a few short months. But not having a badge doesn’t mean Palace is going to stop solving crimes, no sir, and so he picks up a non-paying case finding the disappeared husband of his erstwhile babysitter. It’s no simple disappearance, of course, and as Palace searches for this man he finds himself caught up in black market trading, hippie cult compounds, and government conspiracy in multiple forms.

It was once more delightful to hang out with Palace and to delve into this fascinating world where people are either preparing for the absolute worst or not preparing at all and just hoping for the best. I would proooobably be in that latter camp, let’s be honest, and it’s nice to see that at least some of the hope-for-the-best-ers are doing okay so far.

But I felt a little disappointed in Palace’s slight change of motivation from the last book. I really enjoyed the “guy who knows all the rules and follows them because why would we have rules if we weren’t going to follow them” of The Last Policeman, and “guy who solves crimes because he has nothing better to do and he’s kind of decent at it” just isn’t the same. I get that that’s kind of the whole point — what happens to a guy who follows the rules when there are no longer any rules to follow? But it turns out that Palace just gets kind of boring, so that’s a shame.

Also this book suffers from some of that second-book-in-a-trilogy malaise where the first book stands alone quite well but the second one exists largely to lead into the third one and its big ending. There’s some stringing along of interesting mysteries left over from the first novel (what the heck is up with Palace’s sister and her friends) and some new mysteries introduced (what the heck is the government doing?), and I presume that when I read the third book I will get some halfway decent answers to them.

I will most likely read that third book, though, because I am still intrigued by this world and what is going to happen to all these characters that I’ve gotten to know and like pretty well, and because Winters writes some decent sentences and I would like to read more of them. You know, presuming our Earth doesn’t get hit by an asteroid in the meantime. I’ll be watching you, sky.

Recommendation: For those who liked the first book and those who go read the first book first because I think this book won’t make a lot of sense without it.

Rating: 7/10

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