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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I’m Reading: World of Trouble

There are very few times in life when you complete a series and it is just perfect.  As I mentioned in a previous Monday Discussion on this blog, this is how I felt about completing Ben H. Winters The Last Policeman Trilogy with the last installment, World of Trouble.

This review of World of Trouble as a novel will be short because to say too much would give away the joy of reading the series.

First, you need to see my reviews of The Last Policeman (book 1) and Countdown City (book 2) for more details.  Click through. I can wait.

Okay, you are back.  All I am going to say about World of Trouble as a book is that the story picks up where Hank left off, leaving his girlfriend at a safe house and headed back out into a world only weeks away from impact with the asteroid that will destroy most, if not all life on Earth.

Hank follows some leads to Ohio where most of the action in this book takes place.  I can tell you that before the asteroid hit the earth, Hank has put all the pieces into place from the last 2 books.  He knows what was going on with his sister, he solves a few other mysteries along the way, and still leaves time to end the novel in a beautiful, heart warming scene as the asteroid streaks across the sky.  It’s just perfect.

For Readers Advisory purposes what you really need to know is how to suggest this now completed trilogy to patrons. Here are a few tips and points on that front.

First, it stays completely true to the tone and focus of the first installment.  This means, Hank gets a bit more seasoned as he is investigating the mystery surrounding his sister, but he is still a bit naive and bubbling until the end.  He also remains endearingly good hearted and good natured despite the fact that the world may be ending any day. You can be sure Hank stays Hank no matter what.

Second, this series although set in a pre-apocalyptic time NEVER moves to post apocalypse.  Do not give this series to people who want to know what happens because of the asteroid!  This is a hard-boiled detective novel, albeit featuring an unexperienced detective, who refuses to accept defeat even as he faces down the end of the world.  He will fight to figure out what happened to his sister and why until the end. He will leave no stone unturned.  He will complete his mission before the deadline. Hank is nothing if not earnest, but Winters will not break our trust.  This is a pre-apocalyptic novel and it stays that way until the end.

But it is also a novel about what choices people make when they know the end of the world is coming.  There is no blue print for how you are supposed to act here.  We meet many, many people who all make different choices.  We see what happens to the country’s infrastructure, institutions, and community as the day of impact comes closer.  This is a lot to take in and makes the trilogy very thought provoking, but not as dark as you would imagine because of Hank’s positive personality.  Seeing these background details evolve over the course of the series is not only very interesting, but it is also a huge factor in why someone would read and enjoy these books. So my RA point here...take the term pre-apocalyptic literally.

Third, this is a great option for mystery fans with an off kilter sense of humor, who enjoy quirky characters, and a first person narration.

Fourth, if you commit to reading the entire trilogy, rest assured, it is extremely well paced.  You can read each book in a few sittings.  It would not be a huge investment in time.  They are also paperback originals, so I will be sending quite a few patrons with all three on vacation in the years to come.

Taking the entire series into consideration, I have been suggesting it to many more readers than before the publication of World of Trouble.  Until I finished the trilogy, I couldn’t be sure that it would  stay true to the mystery part.  I was worried that the gimmick of the asteroid would overtake the true story here.  So now, you can be sure the reader does not need to like apocalyptic fiction in order to enjoy these books; they just need to be okay with the pre-apocalyptic setting and the shadow it casts over the tone.

Three Words That Describe This Book: endearing narrator, pre-apocalypse, thought provoking [same three words I used at the start and they still are the key appeal of this series]

Readalikes:  I have plenty of readalikes listed from when I wrote about the first 2 books here and here.

I think your best readalike options have NOTHING to do with the science fiction aspects or apocalyptic stuff though. I do have those other options listed in the links from previous reviews.   Rather, your focus on readalikes should be for other mystery series with an endearing detective, an off beat sense of humor, and some level of thought provoking issues [in other words, it needs to be a bit more than fluff because there are some serious issues at the foundation of  the story...the end of the world is coming for goodness sake].  Thankfully, this is one of my favorite areas of mysteries.  So here are a few options with links to my reviews:

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