- Chuck Gray
If you knew when the world was going to end, to the day, what would you do? Would you abandon everything and do the things you always wanted to? Would you wallow in despair? Would you go insane? Would you end your life? Or would you cling to your identity, doing what you'd always been doing right up to the end? You will ask yourself these questions and many more as you read through Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman.
An asteroid is headed on a collision course for Earth, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The date of the end of the world is set in stone. People are leaving behind their lives for all the pursuits or ends listed above. Infrastructures the world over are collapsing as people abandon their jobs as farmers, telecom workers, city maintenance, doctors, and just about any other vital position you can think of. Among the very small number of exceptions is newly-minted Detective Henry Palace who is trying to solve a murder that looks very much like a suicide in a town where people are literally committing suicide every day.
Readers can't help but ask themselves, "Why bother?" as indeed every other person Palace encounters does. Even his fellow detectives can't be bothered to lift a finger to help him out, obsessed as they are with the impending destruction of the planet's life. I'm going to pay Ben Winters a very dubious compliment: I had trouble reading this book. Not because it's poorly written; it is, in fact, a solid hard-boiled mystery wrapped inside a science-fiction setting, which is quite an accomplishment. Not because I didn't enjoy it. Believe me, I enjoyed it. The truth is that the Ben Winters has written a world so believable that it scared me, at times to a degree that part of me didn't want to keep reading while the other part wanted to know what was going to happen next.
The Last Policeman is the first pre-apocalyptic book that I've read and unlike the movies Armageddon or Deep Impact, there's no adventure to be had here and certainly no hope; all Ben Winters leaves you with is a world in despair and your reaction to it. It's not a happy book by any stretch of the imagination, but it is moving and well-written and definitely worth your time.