Europe in Autumn was among my favourite books of 2014. An “awesome concoction of sci-fi and spies,” I called it in the spring, that reminded me of “John le Carré meets Christopher Priest.”
What I didn’t know then, and what has only deepened my appreciation of Dave Hutchinson’s tremendous debut, is how incredibly prescient it would prove. When the summer came and went, and with it the Scottish Independence Referendum, the separatist prospect it posited—of a world in which “pocket nations” proliferate— suddenly seemed real. All too real, to tell the truth. That said, if this is the way we’re headed, then I’d rather know what’s to be expected before we get there.
Ask and ye shall receive, it seems! Because there’s more where Europe in Autumn came from—much more, according to Hutchinson. To wit, today, it gives me immeasurable pleasure to reveal the cover art and a few key details about the surprise sequel: Europe at Midnight.
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…
Check out that cover art while you’re at it:
I think it’s brilliant. What’s not to love about a train coming out of the light at the end of a tunnel, into darkness and ultimately us? A tunnel, to boot, where we might otherwise find the minds of these mean-looking men?
But that’s not all. I had a word with Hutchinson himself, hard at work on book three as we speak, about what it was that compelled him to write Europe at Midnight. “I never planned to write a trilogy,” he told me:
I really didn’t. Europe in Autumn was always going to be a one-off. But as I got towards the end of writing it I started to get ideas for more stuff, stuff which I was never going to be able to shoehorn into the book. I was also enjoying myself far too much in Rudi’s Europe and I didn’t want to give it up quite yet. So when Europe in Autumn was done I just kept going.
One of the problems with what became Europe at Midnight was what relation it would bear to the first novel. Would it be a sequel? A prequel? For a surprisingly long time it could have been either. I don’t want to get all spoilery, but I tried to explain it to a friend and he said, “Oh, it’s a spinoff. Like Frasier.” So there you go. It’s a spinoff. Kind of. You’ll see. Some loose ends get tied up, others get untied. There are characters from the first book, but not all of them the ones you’d necessarily expect. It’s like Europe in Autumn, but also… not.
Of course, once you’re committed—in your mind at least—to doing a trilogy, you have to start thinking of long story and character arcs; you have to think towards an ending which makes a reader’s investment in three books worth their while, which is harder than you might think. Hopefully I’ve come up with something satisfying. I’ve written the final chapter of the third novel, so I know how it ends. Everyone else will have to wait a little longer.
I’m still a long way from finishing the third book, but when I do I’m genuinely going to miss writing this stuff. I like the Europe Rudi lives and works in; I don’t think it’s dystopian at all. I think it’s vibrant and full of promise and possibility. I’m certainly not ruling out going back there and writing more stuff about it.
And I’m certainly not ruling out going back there and reading whatever else Hutchinson writes about it, assuming the rest of The Europe Sequence is of a piece with the awesomesauce of Europe in Autumn.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Europe at Midnight is to be released in Great Britain and beyond by Solaris this fifth of November—so remember, remember, readers!
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.