Monday, September 24, 2012

Booknote: The Last Policeman

This is the review of the book as I posted it to my GoodReads profile. Even though I gave it 3 stars out of 5 (meaning "I liked it"), I do think that it is a novel that fans of either mystery/police novels or science fiction should try out.

Disclosure note (to appease the FTC, a.k.a. The Man): I did receive this book from the publisher for review purposes. I will note, as I did on GR, that I worked to provide an honest review. For this book, there was a lot I liked, and one or two things I did not, which I note in the review.

Books I think may have similar appeal:

  • P.D. James, The Children of Men
  • To some extent, some of the works of Philip K. Dick. 

The Last PolicemanThe Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not give it more than three stars because, while I liked it, it did have some slow moments for me that made me put it aside for a bit. However, the book was still good enough that I did want to finish it. I just took my time with it.

On the negative side, I did find the epilogue somewhat irritating. To be perfectly honest, the whole subplot with Nico, Hank Palace's deadbeat sister, was pretty much an irritation that I could have done without. I think the murder mystery in the novel was good enough on its own without tossing that distraction into the blend. Since I understand there may be more novels in this setting, maybe the author will develop that subplot further, but as it stands now, I think the novel would have been fine without it.

So, let's move on to why you need to read this book if you are a reader of either crime and mystery novels or science fiction novels. The main mystery is good. It kept me guessing who committed the murder until close to the very end. For me, that is a good thing. Now, what makes the book an excellent read is the science fiction element. Due to an incoming asteroid collision that cannot be averted, Earth has only a few months left of life. As a result of the impending doom, rules and laws have changed dramatically as society begins to collapse. Ask yourself what would you do if you knew you only had six months or so left to live. This is the question that drives much of the novel, and it is ever present.

In addition, the author did some very good work with the world building. Small details such as the ability, or inability, to make phone calls, combined with passages describing the big picture work well to create the doomsday setting where Detective Hank Palace works. In a world where a lot of people are committing suicides, no one really cares about one more. Even when that suicide seems to be a homicide, why bother? The world is ending soon, and even if you catch the guy, he is only going to get a "life sentence" (namely, for the duration until the asteroid strikes). The fact that Detective Palace is driven to solve this one murder, a murder others doubt is a murder at all, indeed marks Palace as the last policeman. As he keeps investigating, things do get more complicated, but he perseveres in spite of obstacles and threats.

In the end, the novel brings together the science fiction and the murder mystery to create a pretty unique narrative. If you are a fan of either genre, you should pick this novel up.

Disclosure note (to keep The Man happy): I received my copy of the novel from the publisher for purposes of review. I did strive to give an honest review. YMMV.

View all my reviews