The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Don't let the methodical pace or "flawed" police detective fool you. This book is something special. I've read better SF and I've read better mysteries, easily, but here's where this novel shines:
It's a delicate balance trick.
I mean, after all, what would you do if the world was going to be hit by an unsurvivable asteroid in six months, eleven days? Follow your dreams, go wild, or commit suicide? All options are commonplace, but here we get a rookie detective promoted because no one else wants the job or cares any longer, and he's not even doing it out of duty, but because he always wanted to be a detective. He's a real drag, in fact. He's keeping everyone else from having their last days be memorable by studiously trying to solve murders that no one even cares about.
And yet, being a jerk in this case would definitely have been considered a "calling" and "following your bliss" in a normal world. :)
Like I said. It's a balance trick. The tension created just between the twilight-zone society in this novel and this normal guy is quite something.
While I was reading it, I was sometimes bored, sometimes annoyed, sometimes very happy and sometimes disgruntled. It put me through all these things, and yet, in the final estimation, I can't do anything but nod my head and say, "Very Well Done."
I'm not saying the story isn't interesting or that the details weren't fascinating, because they were. I really wound up enjoying Palace's character and all the other "somewhat un-present" characters that surrounded him. It was very surreal when I was looking for it. :) I thought the whole blue-book affectation was a hoot and a half, too. :)
Was this a mystery gimmick novel? Or was this an idea-focused SF novel? That's a good question. The most interesting elements are in the details, just like in any good mystery or in a subtle SF. All in all, it's the combination and the great mixing of these two worlds that really drive this work's importance home to me.
I'm now really looking forward to reading the full trilogy, now. :)
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