Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
Please note – Europe at Midnight is a sequel to Europe in Autumn and this review will likely contain spoilers if you haven’t read the first book in this series. Dont say I didn’t warn ya!
In a fractured Europe, new nations are springing up everywhere, some literally overnight.
For an intelligence officer like Jim it’s a nightmare. Every week or so a friendly power spawns a new and unknown national entity which may or may not be friendly to England’s interests. It’s hard to keep on top of it all.
But things are about to get worse for Jim. A stabbing on a London bus pitches him into a world where his intelligence service is preparing for war with another universe, and a man has appeared who may hold the key to unlocking Europe’s most jealously guarded secret..
I only read Europe in Autumn last week. I enjoyed it so much I went straight from that into Europe at Midnight.
Near future Europe is falling apart, nation by nation. The United Kingdom is now far from united, and on the European mainland many other countries are following suit. As if this constantly shifting political landscape wasn’t complicated enough, it turns out there is a parallel version of Europe who have their own agenda when it comes to diplomacy. Now imagine you are tasked with trying to unpick all this, and figure out just what the Hell is going on? Jim finds himself in that unenviable position and we get to follow his journey, from innocent to established player.
Though focusing primarily on different characters from book one, there is still an air of political thriller about proceedings. Like a mildly demented literary shell, the author keeps the plot rattling along and you need to pay attention to keep up with all the espionage and counter espionage that is going on. At one point, a character points out that he is effectively spying on everyone on behalf of everyone else. You might be put off thinking this all sounds terribly complex. I’m not denying that there is a certain amount on intricate plot to untangle, but that is half the fun. Who is working for who? Is there anyone who doesn’t have an ulterior motive? With all these spies will we ever discover anyone’s real name? The good news for fans of book one is that I can confirm that Rudi does make an appearance 🙂
When it comes to sequels, I’m always keen to see the original premise of a book is successfully expanded upon and explored in more depth. Hutchison’s writing accomplishes exactly that. The narrative moves between Europe, The Community and another location known as The Campus. How, and why, do these pocket universes exist? It feels like some unseen power is playing a long game.
The locations in the novel are particularly well realised. The descriptions of the Campus and the Community are wonderfully evocative. I remember years ago watching the television adaption of The Tripods and initially being quite taken with the idyllic scenes depicted. The Community gives off that same sort of vibe. At one point, a character describes it as a picture perfect version of England. At first glance, it certainly seems to be the case, but of course looks can be deceptive. There is plenty of trouble lurking just under the surface in this pocket universe. I love fiction that picks apart that thin veneer of civility that a society pretends to encourage.
This book does exactly what I would hope for in a sequel; it answers some of the questions raised in its predecessor but leaves you with many more. Damn you Dave Hutchison, damn you and your consistently addictive fiction. I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again, the fiction that I really connect with is the stuff that forces me to engage my brain. This book, and by extension this series, explores some genuinely thought provoking ideas wrapped up in a science fiction flavoured coating. Picking apart the nature of power and how it shapes a society is utterly engrossing stuff. Politics and power plays make for engrossing bedfellows, adding parallel universe theory into the mix only makes for something that much more intriguing.
On an entirely personal note, I’m always pleased when my adopted home of Nottingham gets a mention in any book, so Mr Hutchinson gets extra points for that name check. Mentioning how the Eurovision song contest is destined to evolve was also a winner.
The Fractured Europe Sequence is proving to be a real treat. Taking the best from science fiction and cold war era spy thrillers, Dave Hutchison has created something uniquely his own. I cannot recommend this series highly enough. This is a smart, well executed ongoing story that delivers on multiple levels. Do yourself a favour and discover what all the fuss is about.
Europe at Midnight is published by Solaris Books and is available now. Europe in Autumn was good but Europe at Midnight is great. When is the next book in this series going to be, book gods? WHEN?