- Genre: science fiction
- Series: Fractured Europe series, part 3
- My rating: 8/10
Based on interviews and blog posts by Dave Hutchinson, a picture becomes clear that the Fractured Europe series was not envisioned in its entirety from the start. The first novel Europe in Autumn was a project that Hutchinson worked on, on and off over time. Europe at Midnight was then pasted on to explore the consequences of all the revelations of the first novel. And that novel in turn created so many new threads to explore that the third book Europe in Winter was written as a rather direct sequel to the second.
The second novel was rather convoluted in its plot, but Europe in Winter is nevertheless quite merciless if you haven’t refreshed your memory. Do you remember these names: Molson, Prof Mundt, Lev the Russian computer expert? Rudi is back and cooperating now with Rupert. Many mysteries are still unsolved, including some from the first novel. “It has been two years since anyone tried to kill him. Something was wrong.” Rudi decides to start pushing everywhere and gets involved in plot surrounding a terrorist attack on the Line, an independent nation of railways.
All three books are very episodic and “fractured” in their narratives, which works well for spy novels, and we are the detective who puzzles out the connections alongside the characters. The novel holds stories mostly of travelling. Of planes, trains and hotels. Of mystery meetings of assassins and spies having coffee and pints. The story ranges from England to central Europe and all the way to Siberia.
Occasionally something happens, but we never seem to get closer to the deeper truths that Rudi is chasing. It is only a short novel, and it feels like a collection of stories set in the Fractured Europe universe, and those short stories in the end don’t give much closure and don’t seem to tell a great deal. That is perhaps the one weakness of this series. The story has fractured so much that it devolves into a bucket of story-splinters.
Besides the lack of story, there is also a lack of main character. Rudi is quite fascinating on his own, but he only shows up as the mystery character. Once you understand the rhythm of the book’s chapters, you might even predict the moment he shows up. The first time this happened in book 1, this jarred me because Rudi was introduced as main character and then he takes a sudden step backwards into obscurity, and he never left that place in the sequels. So now we don’t have a main character and no clear conflict to follow.
There is a reason for all this, because it paints Rudi as someone with greater influence than he himself might suspect. This leads towards a resolution-of-sorts of the story at the end, but this resolution too seems to come out of the blue. We never really follow Rudi’s explorations from up close, so there is no sense that the story is going places, and when Hutchinson seemed to tire of his short stories he pasted the resolution at the end to round off the novel.
Despite these shortcoming, which I just can’t overlook, the novel is still a joy to read. Hutchinson’s writing is as clear and sharp and witty as ever. The writing style seems effortless and is enough reason by itself to read it. There are also rumors of a fourth novel in production, but honestly, I don’t think that is a good idea. With this novel, the concept has run its course. Hutchinson himself doesn’t even seem to take it all that seriously anymore. He ironically mentions infodumps and deus ex machina in the text, to joke about what he is doing.
Interesting points, I’m looking forward to reading this myself. Will be interesting to see how much your review will influence my reading.
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