Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, November 2015: Europe at Midnight, An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist, Trudi Canavan, Mira Grant, Emma Newman, and more

From the Other Side, November 2015
By Paul Kincaid

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

Earlier this year, when I was noting all the titles in the running for the various genre awards, I was particularly pleased that Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson appeared on three shortlists. Inexplicably, it didn’t win any of them, so I’m expecting the sequel, Europe at Midnight (Solaris), to do rather better.

I say “sequel”, but this new book is not exactly a continuation of the same story, and the engaging hero of that first book only appears on the very last page of this one. Nevertheless, we get the same basic scenario: Europe has shattered into countless little statelets, some no more than a city block in size. And there’s the same spy craft moving the plot along. But Hutchinson has expanded on the ideas we encountered in the first book, so we open in a university that is the setting for a civil war and that we slowly come to realise occupies its own pocket universe. And a significant chunk of the narrative takes place in an entirely different Europe. The third volume in the series is already scheduled for publication around the same time next year, and Hutchinson has tentatively announced plans for at least one more volume after that. All I can say is that if he can keep up this level of invention, this will surely be one of the most interesting and important genre series of the moment.

Europe At Midnight An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist: A compendium of fifty unrecognized and largely unnoticed states

It’s not science fiction, but an intriguing and timely companion to Hutchinson’s series might well be Nick Middleton’s An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist (Macmillan). It’s a tour of 50 unrecognized and largely unnoticed states, including one European republic that had just one day of independence, which rather makes it feel as if Hutchinson’s invention isn’t at all wide of the mark. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, September 2015: Patrick Ness, Ian McDonald, Stephen Baxter, Margaret Atwood, and (of course) Adam Roberts

From the Other Side, September 2015
By Paul Kincaid

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

People who have lost just about everything they own are fleeing the war in Syria and risking their lives to cross into Europe, where they are met by governments covering their eyes and ears and trying to pretend that nothing terrible is happening. Then the picture of a dead boy and public opinion finally forces the government to act, agreeing very, very reluctantly to take the absolute minimum of refugees, with the strict proviso that the moment they turn 18 they will be deported back to where they came from. It is getting harder and harder to admit that this is my government, though they are certainly not acting in my name.

Fortunately, there are individuals with more compassion and humanity than the entire British government put together. At the forefront of these is Patrick Ness, who started to raise funds for Save the Children by announcing that if £10,000 could be collected, he match the amount with his own money. In less than a week, and with a handful of other authors making a similar commitment, he had raised the equivalent of over a million dollars. The last I saw, the amount raised was over £600,000, which rather puts the feeble government response to shame.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here 

So it is only appropriate to begin this month with The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Walker) by Patrick Ness. It’s typical of the work that has already won him a shelfful of awards: sharp, sly and funny. In this instance it concerns Mikey, who is 17 and full of the typical concerns of anyone on the verge of adulthood, except that in this world there are also gods and vampires and soul-eating ghosts and zombie deer. But all the epic stuff takes place in the margins, as it were, while centre stage is occupied by people just trying to live a normal life in an abnormal world. Read the rest of this entry »