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Europe at Midnight (2015)

por Dave Hutchinson

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23019116,650 (4)20
Europe is crumbling. The Xian Flu pandemic and ongoing economic crises have fractured the European Union, the borderless Continent of the Schengen Agreement is a distant memory, and 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 come who may hold the key to unlocking the mystery.… (más)
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Europe in Autumn; Europe at Midnight; Europe in Winter ~ Dave Hutchinson

The first book in this ‘Fractured Europe’ series was recommended to me by a friend, and I bought it as a ebook for a few dollars. Then I rapidly went out and bought the second. The third, maddeningly, wasn’t yet released, but I placed it on pre-order and it arrived a couple of weeks ago.

So I read these three books in a matter of a few weeks. And then I turned around and immediately read them all through again from cover to cover, and I’m glad I did — so much I had missed or not understood now became clear(er). But even now I’m not sure that I fully understand what has been going on, and I’m wondering if there will be a fourth or fifth book in the series which may reveal more. Talk about ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’! (A not-inappropriate quotation, as it turns out).

Where to start? Well, first we have to set the scene, which is the near-term future in Europe after the European Union has essentially broken up back into its individual nations. But the rot hasn’t stopped there, and there’s a wave of independent nations, principalities or ‘polities’ breaking off from those nations, as regional and ethnic loyalties come to the fore. This reaches an almost absurd degree, with in some cases a few blocks of some cities declaring their independence. The whole concept of the Schengen Treaty of doing away with borders in Europe is now a sad, half-forgotten joke. Borders and border controls are everywhere.

Even more interesting, a trans-continental railway line has been built from Spain through to Eastern Sibera. On its completion the company promptly declares the railway and the land immediately surrounding it to be sovereign territory, and that the Line is now an independent nation. The Line’s stations are Consulates. One needs a visa to travel on the train, and to become a citizen to work for the Line. The author somehow makes this all seem perfectly rational.

We’re introduced to Rudi, the young Estonian-born chef at Restaurant Max in Kraków, in Poland. Through some shady connections of his boss Max, Rudi is eventually recruited into a shadowy organisation called Les Coureurs de Bois (“the runners of the woods”?). It’s kind of a courier operation, carrying mail and packages from one nation to another — something no longer easy, or even necessarily legal. It’s like a cross between a courier company, a smuggling ring, and an espionage outfit. Most governments heavily disapprove of it.

For most of the first book, we’re learning about Rudi and following him on the various Situations he’s placed in from time to time (while still mostly working as a chef). Some of these go well, a few go wrong, and eventually disastrously wrong. Something very strange is going on, and Rudi finds that he is being hunted and that his life is in danger. All of this (other than the slighly futuristic setting) has the engaging fascination of a spy thriller, or perhaps one of the Jason Bourne movies. Apart from the occasional use of advanced technology like ‘stealth suits’, this all seems barely like science fiction at all.

I can’t describe too much more without spoilers. Suffice it to say that about 80% through the first book, Rudi has finally tracked down what a dying former Coureur tells him is ‘the proof’. It’s in the deciphering of this proof that Rudi discovers a secret which does plunge us into real science fiction territory.

I enjoyed the second book even more than the first, as we encounter the first person narrative of ‘Rupert’ who lives in a vast (really vast) university campus run as a totalitarian regime, which has just undergone a bloody revolution. How this ties in with what Rudi has discovered in the first book takes quite a while to emerge.

It was really worthwhile re-reading the books. So much of what is going on in earlier parts of the narrative is explained by what comes later that you are almost compelled to go back and read those earlier passages again. It’s a tribute to how good the writing is that all three books were just as enjoyable to read again so soon.

Gosh these books are good! Puzzling, challenging, but very good. Written, by someone who seems to know Eastern Europe (and the restaurant trade) very well; very clever plotting; really original concepts; great characterisation. I loved them and look forward to reading more from this author. ( )
  davidrgrigg | Mar 23, 2024 |
I enjoyed Europe in Autumn enough to continue the series. This did not feel at all like a sequel to the first for a while, but you eventually see where it fits in. I would say this one is a bit better than the first. ( )
  jercox | Jun 2, 2021 |
Running parallel to the times and events of the first novel, this one is still full of spycraft and intelligence work from both sides of a very, very strange divide.

On one side, we have a true Invisible College, in spirit and in reality, that is barely accessible to the real world of our near future after a plague has decimated the world badly and even worse for Europe. Civilization is still around, though, and so is the politics that make life living there damn stressful.

So what happens when a mystery of a map in the first book, a place that doesn't, and can't exist, then meets up with the Invisible College that has been purposefully estranged from modern society so as to continue or enact research that is frowned upon by the modern world?

Well, obviously, it's a true security nightmare.

The plot and the pacing works as well as the later portions of the first novel, using the hops and jumps to good effect while having a stronger and more established Intelligence officer taking the lead.

No spoilers here. Things happen. And we get to see a lot of both sides of the equation.

But that brings me to a single word that I love.

Cartocalypse. I love this. A destruction of Maps. :) An apocalypse of cartography! :) For those who've read the first one, I'm sure this'll mean something to you. Let's bring it to the next level! :)

And now I'm looking forward to reading the next one, which I just got from Netgalley. Woo! ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
*spoilers of the first volume are present*
The second book of the Fractured Europe starts not from the point where the first one finishes and all protagonists are new, a few persons from the first volume make an episodic appearance. Thus it is more a spin-off than a second volume. At the same time, it is essential to read them in sequence to fully enjoy the text.
So, in the first volume we found out that there is a parallel universe with the really great ie large Britain, which encompasses both the Europe and Asia. Protagonists of the second volume will tell us its story. The book starts in the university, the one hinted in the first book, just after some unspecified revolt. The place is to some extent is a parody of old English collages. The ‘feel’ of the book become even more British, with corduroy breeches, tweed suits and five o’clock tea, the Great Britain that existed chiefly, if not fully in the literature and not in reality.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
When I reread my review of Europe In Autumn, I realized I’d actually written a review for Europe At Midnight already. Nearly everything I mentioned there holds true for this second installment in the Fractured Europe Sequence: no filler, solid prose, interesting geopolitical setting, some references to spy novels, no pretension, entertaining, fresh, snappy, imaginative, gritty. As you might know Midnight is not a sequel to Autumn, but more of a companion volume.

So, what’s the new?

(...)

If you haven’t read the first book, do not read the next two paragraphs. While reading it struck me that Europe At Midnight is a kind of 21st century version of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. That might sound a bit goofy, but bear with me… Just like Susanna Clarke’s 2004 masterpiece, it has Englishness all over it it. And even more importantly, it also deals with characters wanting to explore a hidden alternate reality, an alternate reality that is woven from a different fabric, but very connected nonetheless. This other universe is also at odds with our own, and is of a conservative nature, a universe stuck in a bygone era.

(...)

Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It ( )
  bormgans | Mar 27, 2017 |
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Europe is crumbling. The Xian Flu pandemic and ongoing economic crises have fractured the European Union, the borderless Continent of the Schengen Agreement is a distant memory, and 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 come who may hold the key to unlocking the mystery.

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