What if Europe turned into a collection of tiny nations and polities only ruled by people of the same ethnicity, religion or supporter of the same football club?
Rudi is a cook, more precisely a chef of a tiny restaurant in Poland. He knows better than to involve himself in politics but, when a friend of his boss ask his help to contact one of his relatives in another country, he has no other choice but to accept. One thing leading to another, he finds himself being a part of a very special group called Les Coureurs du Bois which is an organization specialized in transport of all kinds of ‘mail’ for everyone rich enough without any restriction of borders.
I am keeping the synopsis very brief because, since we learn things at the same time as Rudi and that he’s left in the dark for a big part of the novel, I could go into spoilers territory real fast. And nobody like spoilers.
The story was very interesting and well crafted, I always wanted to understand what was happening. I never saw where the story was going and I enjoyed every twists and turns it took.
The structure of the book may not suit everyone because if at first we are only following Rudi, toward the second half of the story, every chapters introduce a new character in a new setting which could be a little hard to follow at times. I personally liked it a lot but I saw on a couple of reviews that some people found this to be confusing.
The character of Rudi was really great. At the beginning, I didn’t really liked him because he seems very detached but the more you read, the more you like him and I loved his character development throughout the story. The side characters were also very intriguing, even the ones that didn’t appear for long in the story, they were all complex charactersa and they all added something to the book. My favorites were Seth (another Coureur) and Toomas, Rudi’s father.
As I said the story was great, however, the thing that made me really love Europe in Autumn was the setting.
Europe in Autumn was nominated for Best Novel for both the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) award and the Arthur C. Clarke award which are both British awards. It didn’t get the same ammount of success in the US and I can completely see why. I don’t want to say that you are not going to enjoy the story if you are not European because, whatever nationality you are, a great story is a great story, but it may influence your views on this book.
This is probably the moment this review is going to turn into on ramble on Europe and European citizenship but, before that, I am going to tell you a little anecdote that may sounds like it has zero connection whatsoever with Europe in Autumn but it does, trust me.
I am a huge rugby fan. I have three important hobbies : reading books, horseriding and watching rugby. (And yes, I’m a girl and I don’t care if you find this weird).
I don’t know if you remember but some months ago it was the Rugby World Cup and during it, I realized that I was rooting for all the European teams and not just for France (and not just because the French team is terrible haha). The moment I realized that, it made me extremely happy, I felt like I was part of something bigger that just my own country (this sounds very cheesy but, oh well, it’s true).
I am definitely proud to be an European (what I mean by that is someone that is a citizen to the European Union that I am going to call EU at this point because it’s shorter and I am lazy 😉 ).
I love the fact that I can travel across a lot of countries without any visas and without having to change currency (well not for every country *glares at the United Kingdom* :P). I love the fact that I could very easily go study in another country.
In my heart, I’m French and European and that’s that. This may sounds very naive but, it’s the way I feel.
Anyway, I heard about Europe in Autumn about two weeks ago, I was intrigued by the setting and it was pretty cheap on Amazon so I decided to give it a try. The thing is, when somebody says that something is set in Europe, I always thing “oh cool, this is going to take place in the UK, in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Portugal or in France!”, you know like the first members of the EU. However, Europe is not just made of those countries, if I just count the members of the EU, we are 28.
We first meet Rudi in Poland and my first reaction was “oh, it’s taking place in this part of Europe” which is a very dumb view because at this moment, I realized that I had forgotten about more than a half of the union I’m a part of as a French citizen.
This story takes place in the near future and in an alternative history where a pandemia killed a good proportion of the European population which ruined a load of countries and basically destroyed the idea of a European Union and all its project like the Shenguen Area (which allows European to travel in the majority of European countries like they were no borders). So basically in this world, being a Coureur like Rudi, is on of the ultimate form of freedom. Indeed, the fact that a lot of micro groups created their own tiny states/polities made the prospect of traveling freely nearly impossible.
So basically what I’m trying to say here is that this novel made me realize two things.
The first one : the Shenguen Area is a great thing and I could not imagine living in a Europe without it. I knew that it was great before but I mean, the more I think about it, the more I love the freedom that it provides.
The second is that I should reajust my definition of what is “being European” in my mind Because it’s not just the countries I talked about before, all the “big names” like the United Kingdoms, Germany, Italy, France etc… It’s so much more and I think that Europe in Autumn allowed me to see a little farther than just the countries around me.
Not sure it’s the best review I did here but at least I said what was important for me. If you had the courage to read all of this, you seriously deserve a cookie.
I already bought the sequel, Europe at Midnight and I hope that I will be able to read it this month. I think that I will be starting it when I’ll finish Morning Star (if I survive Morning Star but that’s an other subject entirely haha).