Early Riser – Jasper Fforde

Early Riser

Summary

On an alternate Earth, humans hibernate through the winter. They're helped by a drug, from the HiberTech corporation, that suppresses dreams and increases the chance of surviving - but at the cost of a chance of becoming a zombie. Winter Consul Novice Charlie Worthing will soon be awake in winter for the first time - and in dreaded Sector Twelve, where everything is much more complicated than it needs to be.

Review

Aside from an unfortunate dip during the Thursday Next series, Jasper Fforde has been fairly consistently writing funny, light-hearted and literate speculative stories for some time. Early Riser is a decent addition to the list.

While Fforde’s great on imagining new worlds, he doesn’t always seem believe in setting the stage – providing the context necessary to understand what’s going on. Early Riser fits that trend, and perhaps exacerbates it – while there’s lots of fun contextual material – there’s just not much in the narrative to help explain what’s happening, and I felt the first half-dozen chapters suffered for it; I had trouble understanding how the parts were meant to fit together. A host of footnotes provides some fun, but little illumination – and on my e-reader, proved a hassle to get at, since they didn’t link properly.

Once past the initial confusion – or, better said, having determined to ignore it, which is likely the best policy, the book is fun. Charlie is an engaging character – sometimes as confused as we are – and Fforde seems more focused on fun than a logical plot. Accept this, and you’ll have a good time. It’s a shame, then, that a somewhat rocky start and solid middle are concluded with a wrap-up chapter that feels as is Fforde hoped for a sequel, but couldn’t sell it to his publisher, and so threw in the skeleton of a series all at once.

It’s a fun book, but the worldbuilding is too weak to make it stand out as one of Fforde’s best.

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