BSFA Shortlist Review: Europe in Autumn by David Hutchinson

europeinautumn Europe in Autumn by David Hutchinson

Setting: Near-future Europe, a balkanized mess of ineffectual and often short-lived mini-states, including an anarchist neighborhood in Potsdam, and a sovereign transcontinental railroad.

Summary: An underground system of Coureur messengers do the complicated dirty work of trespassing the numerous physical, digital, and bureaucratic boundaries to maintain communication and crime networks. Rudi, an Estonian restaurant cook living in Poland, gets a taste of the Coureur lifestyle and becomes enmeshed in the underground world, building Legends and Stringers, while uncovering the most underground secret of all.

Synopsis quote:

The Union had struggled into the twenty-first century and managed to survive in some style for a few more years of bitching and infighting and cronyism. Then it had spontaneously begun to throw off progressively smaller and crazier nation-states, like a sunburned holidaymaker shedding curls of skin…

Officially, [the European Union] still existed, but it existed in scattered bits and pieces, like Burger King franchises, mainly in England and Poland and Spain and Belgium… [Loc. 425]

Flavor quote:

In Rudi’s opinion, whoever had set up the Coureurs had overdosed on late twentieth century espionage fiction. Coureur operational jargon…sounded like something from a John le Carre novel. [Loc. 713]

Moment of prescience: Coincided with last year’s Scottish Independence referendum.

How it feels: Grounded, but imaginative. Complex, but full of dry funnies. The protag is stiff and unaffected, while the peripheral characters sometimes steal the show. Not a book for people who want emotional, character-driven content. Not suspenseful, but uncertain-y. This is more about exploring the continent, getting the feeling of something bigger, yet intangible, going on. Lonely Planet with a stiff upper lip.

SF literary sibling: Mieville’s The City and the City, but with European sightseeing.

Irrelevant observation: The story is way better than the cover.

Future status: Ends on a cliffhanger, sequel in progress.

Should you read this? Yes. Yes, you should read this.

*The UK version lists the author as Dave Hutchinson, while the US version lists him as David Hutchinson. IT’S LIKE HE’S AS SHADY AS HIS CHARACTER!


This is part of an 8-part review series on the 2014 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Shortlist. The winner will be announced at the BSFA ceremony at Eastercon on Sunday, April 5.

Upcoming BSFA Shortlist Review: The Race by Nina Allan