Review: The Last Policeman

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last PolicemanThe Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Series: The Last Policeman #1
Published by Quirk Books on July 10, 2012
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
Pages: 316
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

First Sentence: “I’m staring at the insurance man and he’s staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I’m having this awful feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don’t know if I’m ready, I really don’t.”

Through the wonder that is Twitter, I made a connection with someone at Quirk Books. I wasn’t searching for their review copies actually, but one of their people was offering up another book I really wanted to read to a reviewer (Note to self: read that book) and I responded. I didn’t even follow him, but saw the message through a retweet. Anyway, when he emailed me about that book, he asked if I would like to review for Quirk Books. I looked at their catalog and gave a tentative yes, mostly on the proviso that I would review if they published something I was interested in. Well, the first book offered was The Last Policeman, and, yes, I was interested.

The Last Policeman has an awesome premise. It is what I would call pre-apocalyptic, which is something I’ve read a couple of recently (another such book being Unraveling). In these books, everyone knows the world’s going to end, or at least they expect it. The world could go post-apocalyptic, but it might get saved. As a huge dystopian/post-apocalyptic fan, I am naturally intrigued by these.

In The Last Policeman, a tremendously gimongous asteroid is going to collide with the earth. The scientists have proved it, and there’s no way out of it. A lot of people will die immediately and the rest will hang on for a while in post-apocalyptic conditions, but odds of survival for anyone are low. The asteroid is coming in mere months.

What’s so fascinating is that this shows you the response of society. Of course, society kind of falls apart. Suicides become commonplace, people abandon workplaces to go in pursuit of their bucket lists, drug use skyrockets. All of this in an attempt to squeeze the most life possible out of what time remains, or to avoid the inevitable conclusion by concluding everything immediately. From a philosophical standpoint, this question of how the world would react in the face of such inevitable destruction is incredibly riveting. Winters does an amazing job showing a number of different possibilities.

Like with a number of the books I’ve read recently, though, I didn’t hugely connect to the characters. With the number of books this has happened in, I’m starting to wonder if the problem is me. Either way, this was my personal reaction. I do like Henry. I like his dedication to his job, and I do think it’s true to life that some people would be so much more comfortable with the end of the world if they just ignored it, focusing on their day to day lives.

Henry focuses on this possible murder case, desperate to solve it, despite the fact that, ultimately, it won’t matter. At most, the murderer, if there is one, will die earlier or spend his last few months in prison. They’re still all going to die. Perhaps this futility is what kept me from caring about the characters? I don’t know, but Henry was the only one I bonded with at all, and, even then, I was not particularly bothered about whether he got what he wanted.

This is my first experience with Quirk Books, aside from the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies books, and I’m glad that I gave them another go. I highly recommend this lightly humorous and bleak novel as a readalike of The Postmortal. The concept and clever writing definitely make this a worthwhile read.

Favorite Quote:

“‘He books it into that little playground there. I mean the guy is zooming like the Road Runner, skidding through the gravel and the slush and everything. I’m yelling, “Police, police! Stop, motherfucker!”
‘You do not yell, “Stop, motherfucker.”’
‘I do. Because you know, Palace, this is it. This is the last chance I get to run after a perp yelling, “Stop, motherfucker.””

4 responses to “Review: The Last Policeman”

  1. Nori says:

    This isn’t normally my thing, but the story sounds super interesting. It kind of reminds me of the new movie that came out called, “Seeking a friend for the end of the world.”

  2. Kayla Beck says:

    This is one of those rare books that sound like they were written for me especially. I love science fiction murder mysteries, and it’s been far too long since I’ve read one. I think it’s time to order some science fiction for the Bucketpunch branch… Also – great review! 😀

    • Christina says:

      Awww! Yay, I love when authors write books for me. I’m pretty sure For Darkness Shows the Stars was written for me. 🙂

      You should definitely read it, Kayla. I think you’ll like it.

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