Countdown City by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When retired policeman Henry Palace is approached by his childhood babysitter to track down her missing husband, he's on the case. But with only seventy-seven days until an asteroid crashes into Earth, will he be able to track the missing man down amidst rioting, looters, and the rapidly disintegrating infrastructure?
The second Henry Palace book is even better than the first. It sees Palace riding his ten-speed bicycle all over New Hampshire, looking for a former state trooper that doesn't want to be found in a world with no internet and no phones.
As with the previous volume, the case takes a backseat and the book is really a character study of Henry Palace and the rest of the inhabitants of the world. What would you do with only seventy-seven days to live?
Palace has grown on me quite a bit. His single-mindedness has begun to remind me of another favorite character of mine, Roland the Gunslinger, only Palace's Dark Tower is a missing man named Brett Cavatone. Neither of them like what's at the end of the quest, either. Even Palace isn't sure why he does what he does. Hank Palace has gone from being an overgrown hall monitor to a non-alcoholic version of Matthew Scudder fairly quickly.
The supporting cast is pretty interesting, all good examples of what life in a pre-apocalytpic world must be like. Nico, Palace's sister, was both infuriating and endearing. The college campus/anarchist encampment was both ridiculous and all too likely. I imagine a lot of people would offer services similar to Cortez's if the manure was about to hit the windmill.
Once again, the case was a tough nut to crack. I had no idea what was going on and I really have no idea what's going to happen in the third book. Will the asteroid be deflected after all?
Like The Last Policeman, Countdown City is very self-contained. There's no cliffhanger and you probably wouldn't even need to read the first volume to enjoy it. 4.5 out of five stars.
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