Adrienne Martini reviews Ben H. Winters
It’s two weeks until the end of the world and detective Hank Palace is still looking for his sister Nico. Maia, the asteroid that Winters introduced us to in The Last Policeman which will destroy life on this planet, is almost here and civilization has completely come apart. But Palace investigates on, doggedly pursuing the sister who had disappeared in a haze of pseudo-scientific conspiracy in the second title in the trilogy, Countdown City.
The pre-apocalyptic detective story is magnetic in Winters’s hands. The ways he has the world come culturally apart before the impact feels true. His isn’t the scorched Earth nihilism of Mad Max. Instead there are pockets of nearly every human condition you can imagine. Some towns keep calm and carry on; some give way to armed anarchy. And with the introduction of the Amish Atlee Miller and his family, Winters adds a new pocket to this unraveling world, one that is as sweet as it is terrible.
The main story isn’t about how the world will come undone. It’s about Hank finding his sister. He’s left the safe – for reasonable values of ‘‘safe’’ given the circumstances – haven he found at the end of Countdown and is wandering across Ohio with snide criminal Cortez and a mutt. They find a body in the woods and a bunker underground. Questions, as one would hope, begin to be answered.
This last installment, however, is really about Maia. The end is really fucking nigh, to quote that zombie movie, and while we hope that Hank can find a way out, we’re equally sure he can’t. There’s a crushing sense of inevitability. As Palace says, ‘‘Nothing we ever did mattered one way or another. This event has always been in the cards for man’s planet, for the whole scope of our history, coming regardless of what we did or didn’t do.’’
Despite that, Palace never gives up – and that is what makes all of the difference. While World of Trouble is bleak, it is also beautiful in its own way, and redemptive. And unlike other episodic stories about the end of the world, this one pays off by the time the apocalypse arrives.