Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson is WOWWWIE! It’s a complex tale of a kind of alternative secret service. A story that becomes both darker and more ridiculous by the page. A journey through Europe in the near future, but not a Europe as we really know it. More like the undercurrent of Europe in the near future.
In essence: Europe in Autumn
Rudi is a chef. An -ish sort of bloke, a bit difficult to describe. Not Aryan, not Slavic, and not remotely Lapp, despite what his father says. He’s a polyglot who works in a nondescript restaurant in Kraków, serving competent nondescript food. Until he’s offered the chance to do some ‘special’ work on the side. Trained by a lunatic who leaves him for dead at a Situation gone wrong, the paranoid hidden reality of the Coureurs des Bois slowly becomes his life.
But somewhere on the complicated journey Rudi has taken through his twenties, he has upset someone. And that someone is prepared to stop at nothing to kill him and anyone he knows to hide what they know. And what they know could change the world forever, if it got out.
What’s special about it?
Dave Hutchinson is a master of nuance and subtlety. The intricate detail of his characters’ movements, attitudes, observations, and habits makes it impossible not to keep reading. It’s written in a conversational tone much of the time, and the eyes just slide through the paragraphs, lovely and easy and highly engaging to read. Laugh-out-loud funny in places, but always understated.
Europe in Autumn has a punch like a donkey’s kick when you realise its implications; in a way it’s a policy on No Borders – all about keeping the spirit of Schengen alive, though that’s just another front, like everything else the coureurs are involved in – but it takes the idea of no borders to a step you might not have thought about before. Or at least, you may not have thought about it in such detail as described in Europe in Autumn.
The technology is neither too wild, nor hard to believe – for a sci-fi novel it’s a pleasant experience to recognise the design ideas, the brand names, or even, in places, the technology itself and see how Hutchinson has taken it just a couple of steps further along its evolution. In fact, that’s one of the impressive things about this book; it’s so easy to see how Europe could end up functioning in the way that Hutchinson describes in just a few decades.
Hutchinson’s world building may, at first sight, not appear to be anything very complicated; much of the ordinary part of Rudi’s world looks very familiar: for example, no flying cars, but there is an Espace featured. Don’t be fooled. Some of the historical information included in the narrative goes back several hundred years, but what’s particularly interesting is the recent history Rudi describes – ‘recent’ meaning anything that had happened between 2016 and the book’s present. The Xian Flu, the influence of China in Europe, the secession of Scotland from England, and all the significant events in between.
There’s a strong explanation of the politics close to the start of the book, and Rudi makes many knowing observations about the politics in various parts of the continent. We’re given snippets of painfully tasty predictions of the chaos and instability of the region, but are then swept away by the story to yet another impossible situation for Rudi and the other coureurs. It’s a fascinating backdrop and colours the story to give it depths you might otherwise not read.
Will you like it?
The politics around Rudi with countries becoming ever smaller polities and municipalities, is confusing and often violent, but it’s described with the detachment of someone who has grown up with it. If you absolutely refuse to understand politics in any form, this book ain’t for you. It’s what you might describe as a geopolitical thriller.
If you love intrigue, espionage, big picture politics and really engaging characters, knock yourself out, this one’s a winner.