World of Trouble is the last book of Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy. These three books should go into the canon of recommended apocalyptic novels due to their emotional depth and way Winters shows the rapid decline of society and his protagonist, Detective Hank Palace.
I’ve written about the first two books in the series here. World of Trouble isn’t a standalone, so being familiar with the first two entries are a must.
The events in World of Trouble begin one week before Maia is due to hit (and destroy) Earth. Hank has found safety and friends in a mountain hideaway with some fellow law enforcement officers. But Hank is unable to shake two intertwined mysteries from his mind: what has happened to his sister Nico and the possibility of a clandestine government plan to redirect Maia with a nuclear explosion.
He leaves the hideaway with the mysterious but useful Cortez (a thief with many survivalist skills) and embarks to Rotary, Ohio, the supposed meeting place of Nico’s group.
Naturally, something has happened at Rotary, and Hank is racing against time to figure out the mystery. He grows angry at the minutes wasted away while others make decisions. While the resolution of the mystery was no great surprise, I was surprised by the complete despair and darkness that Winters dives into as he concludes his trilogy. It felt appropriate and the right way to go.
Winters does a fantastic job using Hank’s desperation as a parallel to the crumbling of society. As the asteroid approaches, he comes to believe that perhaps Nico and her group were on to something. But as he digs deeper and discovers the truth, he finds that it was all false hope and that it was always out of his hands, and perhaps life would have meant more at the end had he continued to live in ignorant bliss.
The AVClub states it best: But the mysteries are just a spine for a larger agenda: exploring Henry’s psychology, and the ways he represents human endeavor, which can all look empty in the face of death.
Winters throws some interesting philosophical questions against the wall in his trilogy. He also provides a chilling assessment regarding how society would react to an impending cataclysmic event.
The Last Policeman trilogy is a great series. I encourage everyone to check it out.