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.