Book review: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

Posted in Blog by - May 16, 2016

Europe in Autumn (Fractured Europe Sequence, #1)

Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if John le Carre wrote science fiction instead of spy fiction? It might come out something like this offbeat novel – though for its first four-fifths or so, I couldn’t quite see why it was classified as science fiction at all.

True, there was futuristic technology – cloaking garments, newfangled pistols – but it seemed almost an afterthought. At its core, the novel seemed to be speculative fiction set in a Europe fractured into myriad tiny city-states (including, briefly, one comprised of Gunter Grass fans) – a satire inspired by such headlines as the Scottish independence referendum.

EUROPE IN AUTUMN follows Rudi, a chef in a Krakow restaurant, as he almost accidentally falls into a new occupation necessitated by the constantly shifting crazy quilt of European borders: He becomes one of a shadowy cadre of apolitical couriers who carry sensitive information and packages (sometimes human ones) across them. In short order we see him transform from bungling yet resourceful naif to jaded professional, old before his time.

It was only late in the narrative that I began to twig onto just how odd Dave Hutchinson’s imaginary near-future Europe really is. That’s where he introduces, via a clever fictive false document, a fantasy conceit worthy of Philip K. Dick, and opens the way to sequels set in his mad but meticulously constructed parallel world.

EUROPE IN AUTUMN is smart, original, distinctive and highly readable. The le Carre influence is unmistakable, but it’s le Carre through a kaleidoscope. Call it The Spy Who Came In Through the Looking Glass.

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Rick Schindler grew up in the idyllic northern suburbs of Buffalo, N.Y., a psychic stone’s throw from Archie Andrews’ hometown of Riverdale. His writing career began at age 15 when he won a New York Times award for a short story published in his high school literary magazine.

At 19 he interned on the copy desk of the Buffalo News, where he discovered a knack for headline writing that has served him in good stead until the present day. He went on to a checkered media career that has included stints at HBO, TV Guide and NBC News Digital, where today he is a writer and editor for the website of the venerable American TV show TODAY.

Schindler shared a 2012 Sigma Delta Chi award in online reporting with NBC News’ Bob Dotson for the “American Story with Bob Dotson” features on TODAY.com. He also won two 2012 awards in headline writing from the American Copy Editors Society, another in 2014 and two more in 2015.

Schindler lives in White Plains, New York.