This is Item 3 in the December Review of Books What Drew Read In 2015, which is proceeding slowly, but proceeding all the same. Dave Hutchinson appears not to be able to decide whether he's a David or a Dave, or more likely his publishers can't decide - I've seen both on different covers.

Europe in Autumn is, I think, the most notable book I've read this year. I don't know that it's the best, because that's a difficult judgement at the best of times, but it's the one about which I have thought the most while not reading it, and I read it three times. Spoilers, as ever, follow.

The sf element of Europe in Autumn comes in mostly toward the end, although it's set in a plausible near-future Europe with a few advances in tech. The major change lies in the number of borders - not only have the Schengen Agreement and the EU broken down somewhat, but there are lots of microstates hither and yon across the continent. Some of them are very small indeed; the sequel Europe at Midnight shows us where a segment of the city of Dresden has been walled off to become an incredibly wealthy miniature nation.

The actual 'real' sf element is that there are parts of Europe which are hidden from us, in topological folds of geography. In the first book, it looks like they've always been there; in the second, there are implications that they were created by some process of maps-creating-reality. And this hidden space (which is all connected) is occupied by a sort of pseudo-English authoritarian state called the Community, about which the parts of this-side Europe that know about it are having paranoid paroxysms.

The protagonist, Rudi, is an Estonian chef, working elsewhere in Europe, who is slowly, though the progress of the book, trained up to be a courier-spy. Crossing borders is exponentially more difficult than it is for us, and getting stuff from one place to another, particularly if it's of dubious legality, is a busy area.

Reasons I liked the book are legion, but mostly, it made me think about borders, about predictable and unpredictable changes, and about 'black swan' events - for which the causes are already, invisibly in progress, just like the invisible extra folds of Europe. And it made me wonder if there are also folded-away areas of other continents in this setting, is Prester John's Ethiopia was a folded part of Africa, and so on. I also liked Rudi a lot; he's pragmatic and calm even as he gets on with more and more strange stuff.

I suspect that I'll be writing more about Europe in Autumn in years to come, in side mentions and details here and there. It's one of those books.

From: [identity profile]

Huh, I'll have to check that out.

Have you read China MIeville's excellent THE CITY & THE CITY, which also plays with borders and states in an interesting way?
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From: [identity profile]

I have, although I note I don't seem to own a copy - I think I read an ARC someone had. And yes, Europe in Autumn reminded me of it in places, although the world is posits is somewhat more comprehensible. I do have some thoughts about reading the The City & The City as commentary on class or caste rather than geography, which I should probably write down somewhere.

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