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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

It's the End of the World as We Know It, and...

World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters

The third book in this preapocalypic trilogy finds Hank searching for his estranged sister Nico, so he can make amends before It's Too Late. His pursuit takes him from the Northeast to the Midwest, accompanied by Houdini, his ailing dog, and Cortez, a thief that he liberates from jail. At this point, the end of the world is 6 days away, and coming fast.

Hank and Cortez have taken to labeling towns as Blue, Green, Red, etc., based on the color of the Post-It Notes they have with them. Blue towns seem to be empty; Green towns are still in denial, so it's business as usual, and Red towns are on fire, literally or figuratively. Our heroes pass through all the colors on their road trip to the west, ending up at the police station of a small town in Ohio. There, they find evidence that Nico has been there, and might still be, if they can just crack through some concrete leading to stairs below the basement. At the same time, they find evidence of gruesome violence--bloodied knives and blood trails leading in and out of the police station. Whose blood is it?

Winters outdoes himself with this one: the police procedural/mystery aspects were very satisfying, and the twists made complete sense. The various flavors of human nature were all done well, too. But what packs the most punch is the constant tick-tick-tick of the clock. No do-overs, no second chances--this is it. When you know it's the last time you're going to do something, see something, it means more. Everything means more in World of Trouble.

This is another one of those books that follows the adage: "Science fiction isn't the story; it's the setting." Great ending to a unique trilogy.