Europe In Autumn - Dave Hutchinson

I have to admit, I spent the majority of Europe in Autumn going 'okay, so this book is about a future Europe and there have clearly also been some technological advances but how is it SFF?' and then suddenly it was. Except that the thing that makes it SFF only appears about 80% or so of the way through the book and then the rest of this particular volume at least is the main character getting his head around it and starting to deal with the consequences. It's also the thing that made me go from 3 stars to 4, mostly because it's pretty audacious and I want to see how (if?) the author manages to deal with it in future books of this series...

 

Anyway, back to Europe in Autumn: yes, we're in the future and the European Union has fragmented into hundreds of territories, from countries through to principalities based on a single building, meaning that travel between them can be very difficult. However, there is now also The Line (also an independent state) which is a railway line running from Lisbon to Moscow. The difficulties in moving between countries mean that an organisation known as the Coureurs has emerged - politically neutral (or at least that's what they claim), they specialise in moving things and people from one country to another.

 

So far, so good. Anyway, our protagonist (Rudi) is working as a chef in a restaurant in Krakow when he's approached to become one of these. For a while, things seem to go quite well until suddenly, the central organisation of the Coureurs wants him dead and so do some other people. He ends up on the run, firstly back to his family in Estonia where he discovers his father is planning to set up one of these independent states based on a national park where he and Rudi's brother work, and then to London after that all goes horribly wrong.

 

And then, just as I was wondering how this storyline could possibly generate sufficient plot to carry on into another book, Rudi discovers that he has evidence for a parallel Europe that pretty much overlays the current one. Except that it's all one big state (so no internal boundaries) and there are places where the boundaries between the two are thin so theoretically you could go into the other Europe in Portugal and travel to Finland and then just 'pop' back through into the 'real' Europe and nobody would be the wiser. So it's not really clear if the reason everyone now wants to kill Rudi is to keep this quiet or to control it, and I guess that'll be a significant part of the next book (Europe at Midnight).

 

If I have one caveat about Europe in Autumn, it would be that it's a bit of a sausage-fest - the way it's written, we meet characters early on and (if they have a penis and haven't been killed on-screen), they'll probably be back later. In comparison, there's only a handful of female characters, most of whom are sketched out quite thinly and have nothing to say for themselves, some of whom also get killed, and only one (the former love interest) gets to appear more than once. This is not something I can overlook in the longer term, so I'm hopeful that Europe at Midnight will be an improvement on this.