Review: Europe in Autumn / Author: Dave Hutchinson / Publisher: Solaris / Release Date: Out Now
Alternate history stories can be wild affairs, filled with radical changes in concept and pace, uneven action and fantastic ideas. Europe in Autumn takes a slightly gentler route; slight shifts in history leading to a world filled with subtle differences from our own, building up to a series of rather brilliant reveals. The problem is that by the time we get to the interesting twists and turns, we’ve already gotten more than a little bit bored.
In the world of Europe in Autumn, a pandemic has devastated much of the continent, turning the EU into little more than a joke and making each nation very paranoid with highly secure borders. Crime thrives and it is a dark and violent world, dominated mostly by Eastern European gangs. The central plot revolves around a chap called Rudi, a cook from Krakow who gets dragged into a world of deception and double dealing when he joins a gang of smugglers called couriers. It’s a nice idea and makes for some cool spy versus spy scenes, especially as the main character is broadly clueless.
Rudi has to deal with complex Kafkaesque bureaucracy, brutality and ever more bizarre situations. Though Hutchinson’s writing style is direct and uncomplicated, the plot isn’t. It meanders and heads toward the surreal instead. The attention to detail is also all over the place – one moment we have a passionate discussion about cuisine and the next we’re talking about railways. This makes for uneven pacing and large sections where nothing of consequence seems to happen. As we approach the latter half of the novel, the tale seems to both run out of steam and also rush to a conclusion – it feels unfinished in places. Still, the thriller aspects are strong and Rudi is likeable enough.
If you enjoyed books like Osama and Wolfhound Century, but felt that they moved a little too fast, then this is going to be right up your alley. Action fans will be bored, however.