In six months, Earth will be destroyed by a giant asteroid and everyone will die. Society is slowly disintegrating, with many services gone and lots of people bailing from their jobs or committing suicide. But some people are still hanging on... and one new detective is tackling his first murder case. But if everyone is going to be dead in six months anyway, does it matter if a single murder is solved?

I loved the premise of this story, which is such a great vehicle for exploring a lot of themes I'm interested in: does what we do matter if it's impermanent? What is worth doing if we know for a fact that our time is limited? What's worth doing if all the usual consequences are stripped away? And I liked the book to the degree that it explores those themes, and also to the degree that it does an interesting job of portraying life six months before the apocalypse.

That degree was mixed. Life before the apocalypse was pretty good, interesting, and convincing; things are falling apart, but not everyone reacts in the same way. My favorite moments were those concerning people doing stuff other than committing suicide in despair. (There were some of those, but John Wyndham did a more affecting depiction of that in The Day of the Triffids.) A new young cop chases a thief, gun ready, screaming, "Stop or I'll shoot, motherfucker!" and later confesses that she just didn't want to die without ever having done that; a barista sets up a game with coffee beans and paper cups for his customers to bet on where the asteroid will strike; a coroner stays on the job because it's what she's always wanted to do.

The main character, Hank Palace, also really wanted to be a cop, which partly explains his fixation on solving a case when he and the world only have six months left to live, but partly is also looking for something to take his mind off the apocalypse. The thematic issues I mentioned come up, but not in any great depth. They're suggested rather than explored, as Palace doggedly pursues leads while lots of people (but not all) question why he's even bothering. It's an issue which he seems to not want to dwell upon, which is understandable but which led me to expect him to have more of a revelation of or confrontation with his own motives at the climax. This doesn't really happen. He solves his case, which as with many mysteries is more interesting as a puzzle than a solution, and then the book ends abruptly. Not with an asteroid strike. With a "read the sequel!"

Worth reading if you like the premise, but not entirely satisfying. Not sure if I'll read the sequels; a skim of reviews suggested that they're pretty similar to this one.

The Last Policeman: A Novel (The Last Policeman Trilogy)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


Tangential: have you ever seen the wonderful Last Night? 1998, Canadian, featuring Don McKellar (who also wrote and directed), Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley, Callum Keith Rennie, Genevieve Bujold and sundry other delightful people.

(Similar premise -- known, inevitable end of the world, except that the film starts with only a few hours left to go.)

From: [identity profile] ancientone.livejournal.com

well, now you've got me interested.


you do find the most interesting and enjoyable books to read.. keep going.

From: [identity profile] carbonel.livejournal.com


I watched the movie version of On the Beach not too long ago, and shortly thereafter Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Both of these are takes on "we are all going to die, really truly, no reprieve." I find them more interesting as psychological studies than the "how to divert the asteroid that's going to kill us all" adventure stories.
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