Mar. 2nd, 2017

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I bought Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn a while ago when it was highly recommended by a friend. The friend actually said "read it now!", but as at that precise moment in time I was in a hotel in Copenhagen the morning after having a disrupted train journey from Hamburg because the Danish police were taking everyone off the trains, detaining any passengers who appeared to be refugees and putting everyone else on buses to another station where they could get a local train, and the only English-language news source we could find suggested they were about to close the border completely leaving us unsure how we were actually going to get home again, somehow the last thing I wanted to read right then was a thriller set in a disintegrating post-Schengen Europe. In fact, it took me eighteen months to actually get around to reading it, because I was worried that it would make me even more scared and depressed about the future than I already am, but actually I needn't have been worried; it's not really particularly grimdark at all.

Although it's classed as SF, and set in around 2050, Europe in Autumn owes as much to the spy thriller genre as it does to SF; Rudi, a cook in a Krakow restaurant, is recruited into the shadowy "Coureurs de Bois", a clandestine underground network dedicated to "keeping the spirit of Schengen alive" by moving "packages" (which can be data or documents, but can also be people) across borders in a Europe which has not only abandoned Schengen but where the countries we know are fracturing into smaller polities, city-states or even smaller entities, some no more than a few city blocks, one - the Trans-European Republic - based around a railway spanning the continent from Spain to the Urals, but never more than a few kilometres wide. It's a very entertaining read, with a lot more humour than I was expecting; Rudi is a likeable, cynical protagonist, deeply Genre Savvy about the spy thriller genre he finds himself in (although he appears to have no idea that he's in an SF novel). I liked it a lot, and bought the two sequels as soon as I'd finished it.

***

Having been put off Europe in Autumn for a long time because I was worried it would be too dark, it's ironic that I then ended up noping out of V E Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic about 80 pages in. I'd bought this ages ago in an Amazon sale, because it sounded like an interesting parallel-world fantasy. To start with, I found it entertaining enough, though badly in need of better proofreading (one "sewn and reaped", one "spurned to action" and a character wearing a silver "broach" set my teeth on edge rather), but when the villains were introduced with not one but two extended sequences of sadistic violence which only appeared to be included to show just how villainous they really were I decided that actually, it probably really wasn't my kind of thing.

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