World Of Trouble (The Last Policeman Book III) by Ben H. Winters

WorldOfTrouble_FinalI feel for authors writing the final part of a trilogy. It must be hell. You’ve put all that work in, ensnared all those readers, built up their expectations. They’re expecting something big. You don’t want to mess up.

It helps of course, when you’ve already got one of the most interesting and endearing detectives since Sherlock Holmes to play around with. Enter Henry “Hank” Palace, for the final instalment in Ben H. Winters’ brilliant The Last Policeman series.

Picking up directly where he left off in Countdown City, Henry leaves the comfort of the safe house created by his former colleagues to solve one last mystery – this disappearance of his sister Nico. Accompanied by his trusty Bichon Frisé Houdini and the not-so-trusty-yet-resourceful Cortez, Hank once again takes to the road, his compulsion to investigate driving him ever forward.

With only days left, we start to see a different Hank Palace than we’re used to, his flaws starting to show, the pressure finally getting to him, desperation and frustration seeping through his calm exterior as he tries to navigate and negotiate his way through ever-changing terrain to find his sister before it’s too late.

As lines blur, we see Palace’s methods become more and more unorthodox and his interactions with others becoming more selfish, his sense of duty still compelling him to help those he meets along the way, yet often leaving them behind to fend for themselves once he has done so. For all his imperfections though, Hank Palace remains eminently likeable, and we are given some extra insight into his background which helps us to understand his frame of mind a little better.

World Of Trouble does a beautiful job of finishing the series. Unapologetic in its sense of urgency, it retains the interest and atmosphere of the first two books while ramping up the pace until the gripping and wonderful conclusion, when time almost seems to slow down as Winters does justice to what is one of the most satisfying and entertaining characters to grace a page in many years. Winters’ prose is beautifully descriptive and evokes genuine melancholy as we join Hank in watching the world collapse around him and there are some brilliantly poignant scenes but even with all this going on we still take an interest in his investigation and wonder at his often ingenious deductions.
The Last Policeman series has been one of my favourite trilogies in recent years and World Of Trouble ends it perfectly. An amazing accomplishment.

 

Synchronic: 13 Tales Of Time Travel edited by David Gatewood.

 

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As the revival of the short story goes from strength to strength, the short story anthology is fast becoming an exciting outlet for both new and established authors. In the past six months I’ve been sent several anthologies and the quality has been outstanding.
Synchronic, a new anthology from editor David Gatewood, who also brought us the excellent From The Indie Side anthology recently is no exception. Its time travel theme provides an interesting platform for the interesting and diverse collection of authors to strut their literary stuff.
While there are some well-known names from the indie scene included, it’s always great to discover new authors also and there are some great stories here from authors I will definitely be checking out in the future.
From the excellent opener, Michael Bunker‘s brilliant tale of The Santa Anna Gold, it’s apparent that Gatewood has carefully compiled this anthology with an emphasis on quality control. The standard throughout is excellent and each author has taken up the challenge with great enthusiasm. The stories themselves are as diverse as the authors, some opting for a more natural approach to time travel by utilising the mind, others going for the more traditional time machine story but each is as entertaining as the last.
The standout story for me has got to be the closer, Jason Gurley’s The Dark Age. It’s a short and sweet heartbreaker almost perfect in its execution and is worth the price of the book alone and would take pride of place in any science fiction anthology.
Whether you’re a short story fan, or would like to discover quality work from new authors you’ll find plenty to interest you in Synchronic. It’s a splendid collection and excellent value and a welcome addition to any science fiction bookshelf, virtual or otherwise.
Now, where are the keys to my Delorean?

Available now from Amazon

The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne

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Published by Little, Brown (UK)

Set in a much different future than you might expect, Monica Byrne’s debut novel The Girl In The Road ditches the conventions of the genre for an altogether more inventive approach, set in a world where the balance of power has shifted to the East and new technology is being developed on a much more personal level.

Meena wakes with a mysterious snakebite, prompting her to escape from India to Ethiopia, where she was born and her parents murdered, both for her safety and in an attempt to find her parents’ killer. A vast high-tech trail now extends across the Arabian sea, constructed to harness the power of the waves. While possible (with a lot of difficulty) to travel across the trail, this is forbidden and none that have tried have ever returned yet Meena decides to brave the trail to get to her destination. Meena’s journey is also mirrored by another young girl, Mariama travelling across the Sahara to Africa, both stories entwined to an inevitable conclusion.

What follows is a difficult, often harrowing journey filled with paranoia, confusion and longing, fuelled by dogged determination and acute sadness. As the narrative drifts between both women in different timelines, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track, but certain events at key moments in the plot help to snap the reader back into place without losing interest. Byrne draws on her not-inconsiderable scientific background sparsely and effectively to create a realistic and believable future without frills or gaudy technological fancy. The technology of this future is practical, affordable and usable. Adoption of cloud technology and advances in medicine have reshaped society. Pregnancy is prevented from birth, with an opt-in later in life and sexually transmitted disease is practically non-existent which has led to a much more liberal attitudes, although this also leads to more problems within traditional relationships.

It’s not only Byrne’s knowledge of science that is impressive however. Her knowledge and portrayal of Indian and African society and traditions as well as caste systems and its treatment of women and children help to educate the Western reader, and lends a distinct air of authenticity to the work.

The Girl In The Road is a refreshingly uncompromising tale of sadness, loss and rediscovery and while the sci-fi credentials are certainly present, it is much more than that. As beautiful as it is brutal, its unflinching attitude makes it one of the more enjoyable debuts I’ve come across in some time. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. If more traditional science fiction is your bag, I suggest you stick with it. However if you are prepared to take a more open-minded approach to a genre already awash with tropes and clichés and try something outside your comfort zone then this a book you should most definitely consider.

Eamon Ambrose

Deep Breath, Hold Tight: Stories About The End Of Everything by Jason Gurley

Gurley_Eleanor.pngJason Gurley has created an outstanding collection here, each as diverse as it is enthralling, establishing himself as a masterful short story writer. From the bleak post-apocalyptic opener Wolf Skin to the heart-wrenching finale The Dark Age, each story and character is intricately crafted and despite the dark subject matter, each story has an underlying theme of hope even in the most hopeless of circumstances. I’ve been sent several anthologies of a similar nature recently and this is by far one of the best I’ve come across.
Gurley effortlessly embellishes each paragraph with so much emotion you cannot but be affected by the subtle prose and a heartfelt empathy for his characters rarely displayed by authors these days. An engrossing, often surreal trip to the End Of The World, beautifully descriptive and consistently thought-provoking. A refreshing break from the sci-fi norm.

Buy here on Amazon