Autumn Mist was another brutal story for Sam. The past two books in a row very nearly killed her, and the Doctor and Fitz believed her gone forever; now again the same gloom descended. Set in World War 2, in the Battle of the Bulge, one would expect a gritty story. But still, Sam got shot, half-frozen, considered for rape, shot in the heart, and patched together by the Sidhe. I vaguely remember Sam being on the brink of death in The Janus Conjuction (a planet with radiation that makes people melt slowly), and suspect that there were other examples too. It’s no wonder she decides to go home at the end of the book (and that the Doctor and Fitz aren’t the least bit surprised).
It’s tricky dealing with references back to earlier books, or themes that have threaded through the past 23 novels: the Celestis, biodata and the alternative Sam, Sam’s growth since age 17 in book 1… much of this started in Alien Bodies, which I read in 2006 or 2007. Thankfully, the most important books for understanding the overall story arc at this point seem to be Unnatural History which I read last month and Interference, which I’m reading next.
There were some fun references in Autumn Mist: Fitz identifies himself as James Bond (more successfully than his first attempt in Demontage). The Doctor alludes to Benny Summerfield, an “archaeologist from the future” – I really should add The Dying Days to my reading list. It’s also great fun watching Fitz’s reactions to technology familiar to us (1999 and beyond) but not yet to him (1963); he described a microwave as looking like a TV!
I’m not sure I’d rank this among my favorites. 3 or 4 out of 5. The build-up and mystery and pacing was good, and the resolution was satisfactory, but the Sidhe seemed a little too helpful. I understood that they were wary of humans, but they helped people out a bit too readily solely for the sake of the Doctor and his fixing of the inter-dimensional rift that threatened them.
There was also a neat reference to “the Beast” from The Taint, Fitz’s introductory book. But, unfortunately, that was a book I didn’t quite understand when I read it a year or two ago. So the payoff of revisiting its monster and giving it a fuller explanation here was rather lost on me.
If you’re into the EDA book range, I wouldn’t recommend skipping this book; it’s short and it is an important link between Unnatural History and Interference. But I probably won’t go back and read it again.