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Early Riser

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Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, and devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite.

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it's your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it's unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it's weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

But teasing truth from Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping and stamp collecting, ensure you aren't eaten by Nightwalkers whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk.

But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you'll be fine.

402 pages, Hardcover

First published August 2, 2018

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About the author

Jasper Fforde

39 books11.6k followers
Fforde began his career in the film industry, and for nineteen years held a variety of posts on such movies as Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment. Secretly harbouring a desire to tell his own stories rather than help other people tell their's, Jasper started writing in 1988, and spent eleven years secretly writing novel after novel as he strove to find a style of his own that was a no-mans-land somewhere between the warring factions of Literary and Absurd.

After receiving 76 rejection letters from publishers, Jasper's first novel The Eyre Affair was taken on by Hodder & Stoughton and published in July 2001. Set in 1985 in a world that is similar to our own, but with a few crucial - and bizarre - differences (Wales is a socialist republic, the Crimean War is still ongoing and the most popular pets are home-cloned dodos), The Eyre Affair introduces literary detective named 'Thursday Next'. Thursday's job includes spotting forgeries of Shakespeare's lost plays, mending holes in narrative plot lines, and rescuing characters who have been kidnapped from literary masterpieces.

Luckily for Jasper, the novel garnered dozens of effusive reviews, and received high praise from the press, from booksellers and readers throughout the UK. In the US The Eyre Affair was also an instant hit, entering the New York Times Bestseller List in its first week of publication.

Since then, Jasper has added another six to the Thursday Next series and has also begun a second series that he calls 'Nursery Crime', featuring Jack Spratt of The Nursery Crime Division. In the first book, 'The Big Over Easy', Humpty Dumpty is the victim in a whodunnit, and in the second, 'The Fourth Bear', the Three Bear's connection to Goldilocks disappearance can finally be revealed.

In January 2010 Fforde published 'Shades of Grey', in which a fragmented society struggle to survive in a colour-obsessed post-apocalyptic landscape.

His latest series is for Young Adults and include 'The Last Dragonslayer' (2010), 'Song of the Quarkbeast' (2011) and 'The Eye of Zoltar' (2013). All the books centre around Jennifer Strange, who manages a company of magicians named 'Kazam', and her attempts to keep the noble arts from the clutches of big business and property tycoons.

Jasper's 14th Book, 'Early Riser', a thriller set in a world in which humans have always hibernated, is due out in the UK in August 2018, and in the US in 2019.

Fforde failed his Welsh Nationality Test by erroneously identifying Gavin Henson as a TV chef, but continues to live and work in his adopted nation despite this setback. He has a Welsh wife, two welsh daughters and a welsh dog, who is mad but not because he's Welsh. He has a passion for movies, photographs, and aviation. (Jasper, not the dog)

* Thursday Next
* Nursery Crime
* Shades of Grey

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,340 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,516 reviews7,718 followers
March 25, 2019
Jasper Fforde is one of those writers that defies genre conventions, and even within his own body of work, he's written some books that won't have cross-over appeal. The Tuesday Next series, for instance, is pure fantasy silliness, based on the premise that there is a book/media world that becomes a live-action play whenever a book is read. The Nursery Rhyme series--my favorite--is equally silly, revolving around a detective solving crimes related to Humpty Dumpty and The Three Bears. Fforde's pushed boundaries even further in the past few years with Shades of Grey and his latest stand-alone, Early Riser. I'd be hard-pressed to categorize it as either sci-fi or fantasy, as he does seem to take some pains to make his world semi-explicable according to Earth-laws, but at the end of the day, it's typical Fforde weirdness.

The set-up is a world that swings dramatically from frigid Winter to a normal Summer, requiring the majority of inhabitants to hibernate in Domiciles during the Winter months. It's a super-intriguing premise reminding me of Hugh Howery's silos in Wool, but really, that's not Fforde's point, and there are mostly just intriguing but limited details on how the society operates. There's a young person who becomes a member of the Winter Counsul, the group that sacrifices health to stay up and maintain order during the lean winter months. A supposedly quick mission of turning in a brain-dead 'sleeper' takes him and his preceptor Logan to the outlying and wild Sector Twelve, and unusual circumstances progress as they start to hear rumors of a 'viral dream' causing those who can't hibernate to go crazy.

It's a genre-bender to be sure. Sci-fi, fantasy, dreamscape fiction, apocalypse, mystery, coming-of-age; it draws elements from all. This is a book where--you may laugh--you need to read all the words if you want to enjoy it. (I don't always, especially with  'meh' level books). It was engrossing and consuming, and took a little work to read. There's very little background or exposition, and what is there may not matter again. For instance, the story opens at the place Charlie Worthington resides, a sort of orphanage/baby-making nunnery. Does it matter? Only in context of his beginning, and perhaps in assumptions others might make about him later on. But you have to be able to go with the reading flow, content to understand as much as Fforde gives and possibly extrapolate the rest if you are going to enjoy it.

Definitely less silly than Fforde's earlier books, which isn't to say it is without humor, both incidental and situational. It took me awhile, but there's a running joke about how awful various attempts at making 'coffee' on limited supplies are. There's also a cute running gag where two characters meet and one is invested in imagining a shared history that is both funny and a little sad. As usual, Fforde has quite a bit to say about capitalism. There's some side bits about the English and Welsh relationships as well. Thankfully, no cheese.

I found it a satisfying read, but fairly sure it isn't one that will make it into my library (unlike The Nursery Crimes) Cross-recommendation: The Gone-Away World. Also feels a little similar to China Miéville in general boundary-pushing.
February 23, 2023
‘May the Spring embrace you,’ ...
‘And embrace you, too,’ (c)

Oh-so-ever quirky (dystopian?) story. Complete with Sisters/Mothers Zygotia and Placentia and Contractia and Vulvolia and Fallopia and Fertizilia, the culture of calorie-hoarding, Nightwalkers, Villains, Wintering, child offsets, siring fees. People hibernate during their winters. It's mostly comfort food that they eat (I wonder how they don't drop dead from clogged arteries? The miracles of going hungry in winter?). Brain-damaged from Winter Sleep people are used as transplants source or are 'farmed'. A guy dies drowned under 'boron slurry' in a nuclear reactor and no one
gives a damn about it. That makes a lot of disgusting ideas they entertain in here about life, law, privacy and ethics. A delight of whimsical insanity.

Mindboggling. Imagine a girl walking into the facility where her alter ego works and aggressively demanding that they let her talk to her alter ego. Turns out, she's a halfer, or rather, a Halfer. Like a dolphin.

Dreamtime talks. Nightwalkers. SkillZero. Transgender surprises. Sleepmaidens. Dreamspace. Active Control Dreaming. Hiberversity.

Oh, and my favviest job interview ever:
‘I can read and write to level 4A,’ I said, ‘first aid trained, one hundred yards in 14.2, drive, swim and play the tuba.’ (c)
‘I need a new Novice with a good memory to train up. Good career path. Exciting too. Lots of challenges. Bit of cash, extra pudding. Medium to high risk of death.’
‘What was the last bit again?’
‘Extra pudding.’
‘And after that?’
‘Coffee and mints?’
‘I meant on your list.’
‘Oh – medium to high risk of death.’
‘I see,’ I said, ‘and how’s your last Novice doing?’
‘She’s doing pretty good.’
‘She’s not, ... she’s currently in an asylum, shouting at the walls.’
‘About what?’
‘Oh, I don’t know,... Ants or Lloyd-George or buttons or something.’
‘And the one before that?’...
‘They returned her body but without the head.’(c)

They do some seriously crazy shit:
My husband, Geoffrey. ...
I didn’t keep him for five years, though – he ate my sister’s Norfolk terrier the following Tuesday and that was it. ...
He was parted out the next Winter. His legs are on a gardener in Stourbridge right now and his eyes are currently looking across the Sound of Mull, which he would have liked. I don’t know about the rest of him … (с)

Their winters come with fun options:
Q: ‘Food, flop, laundry, booze, drowsy, blackjack, cage-fighting or poker?’ (c)

Loved these bits:
She and I had not exchanged an intelligent word since we first met five hours before, and the reason was readily explained: Mrs Tiffen was dead, and had been for several years. (c)
Few Summer acts chose to brave the cold – the Winter could be a hard taskmaster. The 1974 Showaddywaddy Welsh tour was a good case in point: the band were first trapped by Hunger-crazed nightwalkers in their Aberystwyth hotel, then lost half their number to an ice storm. Over the next two months their manager was kidnapped and ransomed by ‘Lucky’ Ned Farnesworth, three roadies lost their feet to frostbite, and their bassist was allegedly taken by Wintervolk. Aside from that, the surviving members thought it was one of their most successful tours ever. (c)
‘Never realised how strongly the silence could drag upon one’s psyche,... and how the solitude can become physically painful.... in some strange way, I love it. Good for achieving a sense of … clarity.’ (c)
Long-time Winterers were well known for expressing their views in this manner – a dark love of the bleakness, and how conducive the solitude was to deep philosophical thought. More often than not, those that extolled the Winter virtues so fulsomely did so right up until the moment they left an overly apologetic note, stripped themselves naked and walked outside into the sub-zero. It was called ‘The Cold Way Out’. (c)
Almost all of her was gone; only the skill remained. (c)
Fat Thursday had been long established as the first day of serious gorging, the time to indulge in the latest faddy get-fat-quick diets and to take a vow of abstinence from the mass-stealing sin of exercise. Yesterday you could run for a bus and no one would turn a hair, tomorrow it would be frowned upon as almost criminally irresponsible. For the two months until Slumberdown, every calorie was sacred; a fight to keep every ounce. Spring only ever welcomed the mass-diligent. (c)
The Hiberculture of Man, by Morris Desmond (c) Sneaky!
‘I always really admired you growing up. Always smiling through your unhappiness. A real inspiration.’
‘I wasn’t unhappy.’
‘You looked unhappy.’
‘Looks can be deceptive.’
‘All too true,’ she said, ‘but I meant what I said: inspirational in a sort of tragic way, like you’re the failure in the family, but always looked on the bright side of everything.’
‘You’re very kind,’ I said, long used to Megan’s ways, ‘but it could have been much worse: I could have been born without tact or empathy, and be shallow, self-absorbed and hideously patronising.’ (c)
What do you think?’
‘I can hardly contain my indifference.’ (c)
‘Useful until death and beyond, ... as the company likes to promote itself in slogans.’ (c)
I was then relieved to be called away in order to help deal with Sister Contractia, who was taking her door bouncer duties a little more enthusiastically than anyone thought necessary. (c)
Another Poolmate named Billy DeFroid had been inducted into the Winter Consul Service three years before, and everyone was full of praise up until the moment he was eaten by nightwalkers who had gone pack in Llandeilo. He’d fared better than most. (c)
Dreams. No one who was anyone had dreams. (c)
Besides, dreams are fun and random and at least this way I never get to be a nightwalker, lumbering around the Winter, eating beetles and curtains and people and stuff and then ending my days as a spare parts inventory. (c)
We should all be a global hibernating village, equal in sleep, equal in dignity. (c)
‘… of all the Winter Service Industries, the Winter Consul was the most dangerous. Few who joined expected to last out the decade, yet recruitment was never much a problem. You didn’t find the job, they said, it found you. No-one ever who entered the Winter voluntarily wasn’t trying to leave something behind …’ (c)
Chief Consul Toccata of Sector Twelve was suspected of resorting to Winter cannibalism more enthusiastically than was considered acceptable or, indeed, necessary. (c)
Brian had been the venerable sister’s twelfth Silver Stork and Gary and Lucy her joint eighteenth. The Sisters of Perpetual Gestation took their pledge seriously. The record was Sister Vulvolia over in Sector fifty-one, with thirty-four. All but nine survived their first Winter and each of them from different sires – but then Sister Vulvolia had a good eye, and took the need for genetic variation seriously. (c)
Staying awake in the Winter requires considerable pantry, a lot of luck, warm clothes, and several dozen good books. (c)
They traded in mammoths as beasts of burden, and dabbled in the stock market, with moderate success. They had their own code of conduct based around ice and honour and good manners and afternoon tea, and would happily kill someone if they disagreed with them – but would often write an apologetic note to the next of kin afterwards. ‘Manners,’ they were known to say, ‘cost nothing.’ (c)
Stay close, do what I say and make as many mistakes as you want – just never the same one twice. (c)
The enemy aren’t the Villains, womads, scavengers, insomniacs, Ice-Hermits, Megafauna, nightwalkers, hiburnal rodents or flesh-eating cold slime – it’s the Winter. (c)
‘A good breakfast is key,’ she said, ‘and well-fitting boots, merino socks and a reliable supply of snacks. Adequate naps are always useful, a tube of Après-Froid – and never underestimate the value of agreeable wallpaper.’
‘How so?’
‘You’d be surprised how calming a well-decorated room can be. Soft furnishings in pastel tones can be helpful, too, and a collection of soothing chamber music – but on wax cylinder rather than vinyl or tape. Electricity can be tiresomely unreliable and batteries useless in the cold.’ (c)
In the military you’re dumped thirty miles away in your underwear in the snow, in civvy street it’s washing up and knitting. Mind you, it’s good for team-building, and you’ll find it improves your ironing.' (c)
I think it’s a form of hazing. In the military you’re dumped thirty miles away in your underwear in the snow, in civvy street it’s washing up and knitting. Mind you, it’s good for team-building, and you’ll find it improves your ironing. ... Everyone’s ironing can do with improving. (c)
The mythical Gronk had many peculiarities, not least a strange mix of a love of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and obsessive domesticity – most bizarrely manifested in an apparent desire to fold linen. As a diversionary tactic, superstitious sleepers often left a basket of unfolded laundry outside their house over the Winter, just in case. (c)
Grand Theft Pantry remains the only crime to which lethal force might be legally applied, and even this was controversial. Four years ago someone was killed for stealing a packet of shortbread fingers and there was one helluva stink. (c)
If nightwalkers were the unintended consequence of Morphenox, the free menial workers and transplantation possibilities were the unintended consequences of the unintended consequence. (c)
Despite it being two days before Winter officially began, most people had already hunkered down, and anyone who wasn’t yet asleep would be going through their pre-hibernatory nesting rituals. Yoga and Gregorian chants were always popular, with yoyo, tango, humming, bezique and watercolouring going in and out of favour as the vagaries of fashion saw fit. But for most people it was a simple slowing of activity, purposefully avoiding anything exciting. This was a winding down, a relaxing of mind and spirit. (c)
... snow and ice, bleak and empty, cold and unwelcoming. The Winter. There was a very good reason most of us slept through it. (c)
…service retired look after service active… (c)
‘My sincere apologies,… Piss off … with all due respect.’ (c)
They were mercenaries, Dormeopaths, odd-job men, nannies and bounty hunters all rolled into one. (c)
‘Actually, the mammoths sort of did it on their own,’ said Foulnap, ‘nose to tail, like some great big shaggy-haired pachydermical charm bracelet.’ (c)
She’s dead, I don’t like you, you didn’t say please, I can’t be arsed, it’s cold outside – take your pick. (c)

‘I’m accompanying a … pantomime horse act.’
‘Which end do you play?’
‘I’m the arse. Our equestrian gavotte is to die for.’
‘I’ll keep an eye out for it.’ (c)
My career ended right here, in the fire valleys north of Merthyr, defending someone who wasn’t able to care that I was trying to save her from a fate that she could never be troubled about. (c)
Feeding off the shame of the unworthy while folding linen and humming Rodgers and Hammerstein hits had a certain inspiring randomness about it.
… inside the house,… the raisins were all picked out of the muesli, Gretl’s The King and I album was stolen and I found all the books on my shelves reordered.”
‘“Alphabetically?” ...
‘“No – by merit.”
None but the Wintervolk would be so eccentrically daring. (c)
… he gave me a smile that looked as though it had come from a hastily-read handbook on cultivating personal charm. (c)
… car that looked as though it was the unfortunate union of a truck and a family saloon (c)
‘You look as though you’ve recently taken some bad karma.’
‘You could say that.’
‘I simply abhor Weltschmerz. What can I do to cheer you up?’...
‘How are you at erasing poor life-changing decisions in a time-travelly sort of way?’(с)
‘Lucy, dear, why did curiosity kill the cat?’ …
Oh – er, the context of the saying remains obscure, ma’am, but the idiomatic meaning is quite clear.’
‘Exactly,’ said Goodnight, ‘couldn’t have put it better myself. An idiom. Our work here is unpalatable but necessary for the greater good. In idiomatic terms … Lucy?’
‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs?’
‘Close enough.’
‘Isn’t that … proverbial rather than idiomatic?’ I asked.
They both stared at me for a moment.
‘Lost interest and moving on,’ said Goodnight. (c)
If you’ve not dreamed, you’ve never truly slept. Dreams are the place where you can be yourself; do anything, be anything. The mind set free – Morphenox muffles the mind and smothers the imagination. (c)
… plate-glass window … certified to withstand torrential rain, gale-borne debris and an enraged mammoth. (c)
notorious chatterers. Feedback loops, echo chambers, circular reinforcement. All could play a part in escalating the utterly imaginary to the level of reality, sometimes with fatal consequences. (c)
‘The dream grew, it took them over. It devoured them.’ (c)
... when it comes to weird stuff, viral dreams hardly make the Sector Twelve top ten.’
‘Where’s Toccata on the list?’
‘Five or six. (c)Q:
I’ve experienced almost every terror in the last four years. A run-in with Lucky Ned’s gang, near-starvation, frostbite, irate debtors, Toccata in a rage, and a massed nightwalker attack.’ (с)
If you’re in a jam, call Treacle. (с)
Having a permanently open line on the telephone network helps. Pick up the receiver and just talk. There’s usually someone listening, and if there isn’t, there soon will be. If all else fails, you can always talk to yourself or listen to the static. To be honest, listening to static can be more relaxing than listening to many of the others (c)
‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought you were a thin layer of oil paint.’ (c)
I’ve always been suspicious of game changers... Sometimes the game doesn’t need changing – or no one has a clear idea of which game will be changed, and for what and how much.’ (c)
‘Don’t make us do anything you might regret,’ said Mrs Nesbit, who was now in the temple and casting a bluish glow onto the stonework, ‘because we can make our dreams into your nightmares.’
‘Perhaps,’ I said, ‘you could make that your mission statement and company motto.’ (c)
His anger management issues actually have their own anger management issues. (c)
‘Can I ask why?’
‘Why what?’
‘Why you’re something you’re not.’
‘We’re all something we’re not,’ he said. ‘Every one of us is stuck between the person we want to be and the person we can be. And there doesn’t have to be a why. All things have to do is feel right.’ (с)
I spent the rest of the journey thinking about the Farnesworths’ incredulous expressions as they gazed upon Fodder’s naked body, there in the snow and the sun: bold, muscular, athletic, Snowdonian in stature and physically at variance with the gender with which he felt most at home – but with the rare and highly desirable tiger stripes picked out in auburn on his blond winterdown. (c)
I believe there’s something dreamy and inexplicable in the air, and if Gronk is the best way to describe it, then Gronk it is. (c)
Twenty-one years and thirty billion euros later there was still one vast and wholly intractable problem: did you just learn about Charlotte Brontë, or did you dream you learned something? The person you just met in the Dreamspace. Did they really say what you thought they said, or was that just an invention? You are invited to have an affair in the Dreamspace. Does that make it adultery? Or even consensual? And if it wasn’t consensual, then what was it? Business deals: legally binding or not? The point is, there would be no easy way of knowing whether what happened in the Dreamspace was real, and what was imagined. Ten per cent? Eighty per cent? None? (c)
‘Could you dream yourself a principled and confident leading member of the Campaign for Real Sleep?’ I asked. ‘Deep undercover on a dangerous mission with the girl of your dreams?’
‘Sure,’ he said, ‘if that’s your thing. Me, I want to fly. But not like a pilot – like a bird. High on the wing above the hushed nation, chasing the spirit of freedom. Or maybe a saxophonist,’ he added, ‘playing for Holroyd Wilson, there at his last gig, before the Winter took him. Or maybe I could dream myself popular,’ he said, ‘or even respected. Or normal. That would be nice.’ (c)
You’re a liability and a wild card and trouble seems to follow you like a homesick spaniel. (c)
It’s just kind of her thing.’
‘I wish she would find some other thing.’(c)
‘Most Novices we get are either burned-out ex-military with a thousand-yard stare, gung-ho idiots or saddos who might as well have Kill Me Now printed on their forehead. You’re not any of those. But I can’t figure out if you’re a clever person pretending to be thick, a thick person pretending to be clever, or just a chancer stumbling through the Winter without any sort of plan or thought at all.’ (c)
‘Raising overkill to an art form?’ (c)
But that was the thing about the Hydra principle: you could be zero to hero and back again in less time than it takes to blink. (c)
To this day my washing is always mysteriously folded overnight. (c)
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,161 reviews2,010 followers
October 4, 2018
Jasper Fforde is one of my favourite authors and I have been waiting it seems for ages for him to write something new! Here it is at last and it is worth every minute of the wait.

This new book is written in Fforde's typical quirky and inventive style. The setting is an alternate Wales where the population hibernates through Ice Age like winters and only a few people stay awake to take care of the sleepers. Our hero, Charlie, becomes a Winter Consul and this story tells of his first winter spent awake with mostly rogues and thieves for company.

I love this author's writing style. It is smart and witty and there are lots of little topical references which are always slightly askew like "...knowing all the old Nesbits was like knowing every actor who ever played Jane Bond, especially the solitary male one, something which was quite controversial at the time." Food also is very important in a world of snow and ice and I enjoyed all the references to things like Nesquik and Jaffa Cakes, things from my English childhood!

This is a fun book which I enjoyed very much BUT now that Mr Fforde has his writing mojo back I do hope he has another Thursday Next book up his sleeve and of course we are all wishing for the sequel to Shades of Grey. Just saying:)
Profile Image for MTK.
486 reviews34 followers
November 30, 2018
By giving three stars, I am being generous (or perhaps grateful for the delight Fforde's previous books brought me). It's not a bad book, but it is extremely exposition-heavy and badly paced; we are constantly being bombarded with endless minutiae of this alternate universe where humans hibernate like bears, most of them delivered in barely comprehensible jargon, that's it's hard to penetrate to the heart of the story, and the plot, when at last it happens, moves either too fast or too slow. Worst of all, all these details that bog down the story ultimately fail to paint a vivid picture of this winter world.
Profile Image for Edgarr Alien Pooh.
272 reviews176 followers
June 5, 2021
WOW...... weird..... weird...... weird. That was one weird read but oh so much fun. Think Terry Pratchett but with a bit more depth and many more characters.

We are in an alternative world but pretty much just in Wales, England and Ireland. People survive the Winter after the last Fat Thursday where they eat as much as they possibly can and load up on calories. These calories allow for winter-long hibernation, only dreams will slowly decrease the calorie load but those who wake early will inevitably die as they leave their dorms to seek food in the outside world. A winter world so cold that death arrives in under an hour.

The world is broken up into sectors and it is sector 12 that is lead by the meanest woman, Toccata, which contains a business called Hibertech, which manufacture serums to enhance the dreams of the hibernating. It is sector 12 where Charlie Worthing lands, through deception, to begin his first year as a Winter Consul. Consuls remain awake during the winter in a role called Overwintering, where they maintain the safety and order of the sector.

Almost immediately on arrival Worthing is met by Aurora, the woman at the head of Hibertech. Soon after he is introduced to Toccata, the two women share a hatred of each other that stems from a deep secret, and both have their eyes on Charlie Worthing. Poor Charlie has to decide which path to follow as well as work his way through his first Winter, something that 30% of first-timers cannot do.

Living in Dormitoriums, threatened by the never-seen Gronks that roam the snow lands, carrying weapons that range from the lowly Bambi up to the heavy Cowpuncher, with Golgotha bombs, a secret and illegal society called Realsleep who strive for sleep for all without the use of medications, and their leader, Kiki, characters with names like Foulnap and Nightwalkers who are the undead, usually those who could not last a full Winter's sleep. I did say this book is weird.

A truly bizarre and fun read, you will need to concentrate to not let the story get away from you but with plenty of references to modern pop culture, only twisted to suit this newer world, I'm sure you'll get a laugh.
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
579 reviews241 followers
September 16, 2022
In a world plagued by such terrible winters, that most people prefer to spend the time hibernating, Charlie Worthing is happy to take up a job watching over the "sleepers". For all that the job of a Winter Consul is fraught with dangers and virtually no one survives it unscathed, it's still a significant pay bump compared to domestic duties.

All this of course doesn't stop Charlie from making a huge blunder on the very first assignment. So now our intrepid protagonist gets to spend the remainder of the book making up for it.

you had one job

Jasper Fforde's been sort of a hit and miss author for me. On the one hand, his humor (when it hits) is absolutely brilliant. On the other hand, said humor often feels much too elevated for my limited general knowledge, so it can come off as pretentious.

Luckily for me, Early Riser was happy enough to rely on minimal snobbery, focusing instead on wordplay, lots of situational humor, and a vaguely disturbing tendency to depict horrific events as hilarious.

Survival tip

There's no denying, that the novel has a lot going on for it. Starting with Charlie's ambiguous gender, to the characters' constantly shifting morals, not to mention my own nostalgia about a trip to Wales from some years ago... nevertheless, the book's highlight proved to be its world building. I especially loved how it starts out as a dystopian bleak future, only to gradually reveal itself as an alternate reality with relatively minor difference to our own. Aside from the whole winter hibernating stuff, of course.

Score: 4.4/5 stars

There were a bit too many universe-specific terms that would confuse me along the way, and I wasn't exactly thrilled with the switch in narration style in the final chapter. It felt needlessly contrary, as if it was trying too hard to be original. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed the story, the characters as a whole, and have resolved to check out more of Fforde's other works.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,601 reviews1,669 followers
September 28, 2018
Jasper Fforde hasn't released a new book since 2014, and that is a long time for him. I have been waiting and waiting (so patiently) for the third Nursery Crime book, but it just doesn't seem to be happening. Neither does the second Shades of Grey book. But now there is this book, which is not actually out in the US until 2019, so I bought it from Book Depository. I'm glad I did this anyway because the UK cover is so much better than the American one. It has a cutout cover and when you lift it up those people are on the beach, and I just love it.

But, okay, the actual book. What Early Riser reminds me of the most in tone and style, if you've read his other books, is actually Shades of Grey (which was subtitled The Road to High Saffron after they decided it would, eventually, have sequels; but my copy just says Shades of Grey on it). It has a completely original world that can be a bit dense to get in to, and the satire functions in almost exactly the same way. Fforde builds a world that is so ridiculous and implausible that his characters' actions reflect the absurdity of our own society and behavior.

Early Riser is set in a world where winters are so severe that humanity has chosen to hibernate every year. Everything is built on this premise: their social structures, their reproduction, their body image, etc. And almost everything is completely upside down from our world. Because if you don't have enough body fat, there's a high chance you won't make it through the winter, attractive people are those who are fatter, and skinny people are seen as undesirable. Larger bodies are seen as signs of wealth and stability (much as it was in the middle ages). There is a constant threat of population decline, and a high chance of not lasting the winter, either because you never wake up, you wake up wrong, or mysterious monster figures get you. As in other Jasper Fforde satires, there are also nefarious corporations, conspiracies, and absurdities abounding. But this book is actually the darkest thing I've read from him. Its humor is definitely humorous, but it's a darker, bleaker humor.

Our main character is Charlie Worthing, a somewhat hapless young man who blunders his way through a lot of things. He's decided to become a Winter Consul, one of the select few humans who stay awake all winter, caring for the sleeping others. It's a very dangerous job, most newbies not making through their first winter, and he basically only takes it out of spite. He has no idea what he's doing. As a result, his POV isn't the most helpful in decoding Fforde's world, because any clues dropped we as readers have to put together. Charlie ain't going to do it.

As other reviewers have noted, the barrier to entry on this one is pretty high, even higher than most of his books, as there is such a lot of worldbuilding and terminology to understand. You do eventually get it all (took me about 1/4 of the book), but it takes longer than it should. I don't think I've ever read a Fforde book I haven't enjoyed, but this one, though the premise is incredibly intriguing, isn't my favorite of his. The complications take away a bit of the enjoyment. Still, on re-read, I bet I would like it a lot better. It would also make for a fantastically creepy and funny movie. Nobody has yet been able to successfully translate Fforde into film yet, so I guess I'll be waiting a while on that.

[3.5 stars, rounded up]
December 6, 2019

The road to Spring is littered with well-intentioned morons.

This Ffantabulously Ffantastic Ffordstival (F³) of a book is about: Mumbling, shortbread and cannibalism as hobbies. Faddy get-fat-quick diets and the mass-stealing sin of exercise. Playing Tom Jones’ songs on the bouzouki. Everything of use but the yawn™. Sprightly reactor-savvy octogenarians. Hibernational elitism. Pantry Heists, Grand Theft Pantry and the much necessary analysis of splatter patterns of messy eating. Frigicution. Baskets of unfolded laundry as diversionary tactics. One’s sense of intestinal fortitude. Carmen Miranda, Ivor Novello and 💕Cary Grant💕

Does she do tricks?’ ‘She eats dead people.’

This Ffantabulously Ffantastic Ffordstival (F³) of a book is also about: Ulysses, Moby Dick and War and Peace as the default entry-level route to welcome catatonia. Arctic badgers. Most yummilicious Fawlty Towers references. Clytemnestra’s good-natured sociopathy. Comfort food as a tool to reorientate one's moral compass. Fictional nostalgia. Unalterable pigment-based psychopathy, dormelogical risks and severe wakestipation. Samba and longevity. Puddings being randomly laced with curry powder to better prepare one for life’s inevitable disappointments.

Last season we had the Reduced Shakespeare Company doing “Highlights of the Mostly Complete History of Condensing Stuff (abridged).”

This Ffantabulously Ffantastic Ffordstival (F³) of a book is also also about: Active Control Dreaming. Zygotia and Placentia and Contractia and Vulvolia and Fallopia and Fertizilia, oh my! The much-underrated value of agreeable wallpaper. The unintended consequences of the unintended consequence. Great big shaggy-haired pachydermical charm bracelets. Anger management issues that have their own anger management issues. Calling Treacle when you're in a jam. And ultimately, good career paths with medium to high risk of death. And extra pudding.

“Queen’s knight takes bishop, hope you are devoured by slime in your sleep”.
(That qualifies as medium risk of death, methinks.)

And now let's dance Do the Carmen Miranda and stuff.

Profile Image for lucky little cat.
546 reviews102 followers
September 14, 2021
Confession: I have never been able to make it through a Jasper Fforde novel before this one.
The Eyre Affair novels have always seemed way too randomly, relentlessly pun- and gag-stuffed, and frankly, I get more than enough of that at home over the dinner table.

But Early Riser made me happy. It's a stand-alone, a fish-out-of-water story where a plucky, mostly self-aware young person goes out and finds adventure. The world he encounters has enough flexibility (and even occasionally unexpected kindnesses) to at least sometimes accommodate his inevitable mistakes.

It's a post-apocalyptic glacier-locked earth, at least for half of the year, and most humans have adjusted by growing a thin coat of fur and hibernating through the winter months.

Fforde has tremendous fun taking on numerous ripe targets: big pharma, marketing, sexism, the drudgery of menial labor, exploitation of the working class. The ingenious corporate meanies in Riser have worked out ways to squeeze work hours out of the public even as the public sleeps.

The book's ultimately a kind of an arctic Wild West story set in Wales. With zombies. It's also a save-the-monster story, once they sort out which are the innocent monsters.

Things get all cuddly and small-world interrelated by the end, but the earliest chapters reminded me of classic sci-fi like End of Eternity without the entrenched sexism.

With Tom Jones tunes and a multitude of other well-placed Wales allusions. Fforde being Fforde, even throwaway lines are allusive, for example this on-air announcer's repeated warm-up line, “We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire, where Mrs. Buckley lives. . . " which, if you're an Orson Welles fan, you'll recognize as an advertising jingle Welles famously rebelled against reciting in the twilight of his career. One of these days, Fforde's novels will digitally bristle with hyperlinks to segue to his allusions. 'Til then, we'll just have to make do with memory :)

14 hrs, 175 wpm
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,209 reviews222 followers
September 10, 2020
'I need a new Novice with a good memory to train up. Good career path. Exciting too. Lots of challenges. Bit of cash, extra pudding. Medium to high risk of death.'
'What was the last bit again?'
'Extra pudding.'
after that?'
'Coffee and mints?'
'I meant on your list.'
'Oh - medium to high risk of death.'

Jasper Fforde writes books that are a dream to read, and a nightmare to review, but here goes! It's been a long wait for this one - over two years since the last book was published - but his writing is always worth the wait.

No one who got cold and dirty in the Winter was ever truly welcome in the Summer. The citizenry didn't know or care what the Consuls did during the cold to keep them safe, they just wanted to wake alive in the Spring, same as always. For many people, the Winter didn't really exist except in an abstract sort of way, and by consequence, neither did we.

It's a standalone novel this time, set in a world of climate change but in reverse; and due to a scarcity of resources [edit: on reread, this isn't accurate, it's just how people were built. Resource scarcity is a wholly separate issue.], most citizens hibernate through winter (eight weeks either side of the winter solstice). The reader isn't coddled by the author, either, which makes for a slightly confusing beginning. But piece by piece, we're given more glimpses into this world, and some of them are glorious. From the pressure-weapons creating patches of clarity when fired through falling snow, to the Villains (English nobility who escaped to Wales and refuse to compromise their expected standards), each supporting character and piece of knowledge is finely tuned and builds a truly comprehensive world.

I enjoyed so much in this story. It may not be for everyone - it's slower in its pace than previous Fforde novels, and slower in allowing the reader to find their feet. But it was thoughtful and considered, and taking my time with it felt more like savouring than dawdling. If you've enjoyed previous books by Jasper Fforde, I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. And if you haven't, you're missing out - get thee to the Thursday Next series, post haste!

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. - Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House.
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.5k followers
February 1, 2019
Why I love it
by Liberty Hardy

Zip up your snowsuit and grab your pillow and blanket! It’s time for a chilling, sharply funny novel, where humans hibernate half the year, and dreaming can be deadly. Welcome to the delightfully zany world of Jasper Fforde!

Charlie Worthing is a new recruit with the Winter Consuls, the scrappy agency that watches over the lucky tranche of humanity that gets to hibernate through each brutal winter instead of risking frozen limbs, starvation, and death. What’s his first day on the job like? Well, his mentor is immediately assassinated, a viral dream is killing off hibernators, and that’s just the beginning. Throw in cannibalistic Nightwalkers, the dreaded WinterVolk people, and the other undesirables he must deal with while being awake, and you’ve got all the makings of a very fun adventure story. Can Charlie save the day?

I’m trying hard not to gush here, but I have been a diehard Jasper Fforde fan since his first novel, and this one makes me SO HAPPY! Fforde has such an incredible talent for witty dialogue, and the imagination he pours into this novel is astounding. I loved how the exposition builds and builds, gaining momentum like a runaway snowball, until its fabulous conclusion. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a first-time Fforde reader, this novel is ffun for everyone!

Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/early-rise...
Profile Image for Jennie.
586 reviews38 followers
October 7, 2018
I am a big fan of Jasper Fforde and look forward to all of his books, but this one fell far short of my (admittedly high) expectations. It started out murky: the reader is expected to just understand the world’s rules without much explanation. I found that I had to re-read the first few chapters because I was so confused, and that has never happened to me with Fforde. I have read all of his books and expect some twisty weirdness, but after 200+ pages it still felt like all weirdness, no plot. By the time anything started to happen I was too exhausted to really care about the ending.

Profile Image for Kelly.
253 reviews
June 10, 2018
I was delighted to receive an advance copy of this title on Netgalley as I am a massive fan of the authors works. Once again Jasper Fforde has created a world that initially seems insane but is written with such practical language and real characters that by the end of the book it's completely normal. The characters are really well written, I particularly liked the main character Charlie, and found the dialogue between them all was brilliant. The sense of peace and danger that the winter in this world presents really comes across in the writing and my only criticism would be that the book wraps up a bit too quickly for my liking. Saying that, this was a great read for all Fforde fans and those who like their dystopian fiction a bit quirky with a lot of humour.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,327 reviews128 followers
September 14, 2018
Early Riser is the fourteenth novel by Welsh author, Jasper Fforde. Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Worthing gladly deserts his Assistant House Manager job at St Granata’s Pooled Parentage Station in Cardiff when the opportunity to become a Winter Consul presents. With a bare minimum of training, he starts as the new Novice for the famous Jack Logan. With Slumberdown (for Winter) mere days away, their first assignment is, ostensibly, to deliver a Night Walker to the Hiber-Tech HQ in the often-dangerous Sector Twelve.

He’s already not doing too well at this when his mentor is killed, and Charlie has to make the delivery on his own. He also intends to fulfil Logan’s intention to speak to the Sector Chief Consul about the recently reported spate of viral dreams involving a blue Buick, an oak tree, boulders and grabbing hands, and ending in psychotic episodes. Accidentally(?) stranded in the Sector, Charlie wakes up to realise that he, too, has had this dream.

The world that Fforde builds is certainly different. This is Wales, but not as we know it: it gets very cold in Winter; a mere 0.01% of the population (Winter Consuls, winsomniacs, Villains, Wintervolk and the mythical Gronk) does not spend the eight months of Winter in Hibernation; everyone spends the eight weeks before Slumberdown prodigiously eating, putting on enough weight to see them through; the lucky ones get to use Morphenox which stops them spending their energy reserves by dreaming; population numbers reduce each winter because of the cold, so there is compulsory child-bearing legislation.

His fourteenth novel bears all the usual Jasper Fforde trademarks: amusing names (of people, organisations, publications, drugs); chapters prefaced by quotes from (sometimes bizarrely titled but always relevant) books, articles, press releases, a dictionary, magazines and, of course, from many of the ten editions of the Handbook of Winterology (Hodder & Stoughton); numerous footnotes that are occasionally humorous but always informative and therefore, ignored at the reader’s peril.

Fforde’s plot is original, as always, and there are plenty of twists and red herrings, and most of the characters are not quite what they first seem to be. There’s plenty of humour, but also some thought-provoking observations about sleep and dreaming. A little bonus for those who read past the acknowledgements, are some clever fliers and posters in Fforde’s latest creation. Very entertaining!
Profile Image for Nigel.
803 reviews90 followers
August 24, 2018
In brief -
The start - a bit indifferent.
To around the halfway mark - very Jasper Fforde but I've read better
After that it simply got better and better.... Ho hum, the joys of reviewing :)

In full
This is a new standalone story from an author I am a real fan of. In practice he has written nothing for some years now and I was a little worried and pleased when I got my review copy. This is set in Wales though not the Wales we know. In this story we are loosely in the current era however Wales enjoys temperatures in the winter that can descend to lower than -50 degrees. In the main inhabitants hibernate and have done so for years. A few people do stay awake. The Winter Consuls are one group who keep order over that period. The Hibertech corporation also works through the winter. The other humans awake are largely unfortunates or criminals - in either case food is very important to them.

Cue the arrival of Charlie. Charlie is an orphan of sorts and desperate to leave the institution he is in. He joins the Winter Consuls as a novice. Novices lives tend to be short and the first winter takes a toll. It's bizarre and is very Jasper Fforde.

While this is wildly inventive it does take some scene/world setting. This seemed to slow down the first third or so for me quite a bit. Charlie's first "simple" job does not go well and he is stranded in Sector 12, loosely mid Wales, which has a bad reputation for all kinds of things. In particular it appears that a viral dream make be killing people off It is also a centre for the Hibertech corporation. Fforde has a penchant for manipulative, shady corporations and this is no exception. Throw in the Womads and Wintervolk and almost anything could happen. Charlie - or Wonky as he prefers NOT to be known - finds himself in the centre of everything that is going on.

As far as the key components are concerned there is great humour here and the characters are rich and interesting. Aurora and Toccata are wonderful creations for example. Charlie too is excellent. Charlie actually has a feel of Eddie in Shades of Grey for me (although it is a while ago I read it). Maybe the basic outline has some similarities too - state/corporations plots to do what? The writing is very effective; simple in some senses and yet complex enough to be interesting. I did find it is best if the reading can be sustained.

For me this is definitely not Fforde's best work. As I said the first part of the book seemed rather slow. The book became progressively faster, clearer and more appealing as time went on. The graph of my enjoyment went up and up as the temperature went down and down! Ultimately it was great to read a new book by Jasper Fforde and I enjoyed it. I sincerely hope that he can now add to Shades of Grey because that first book is probably one of my all time favourites - more please Mr Fforde!

Note - I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review
Profile Image for Mimi.
692 reviews190 followers
February 1, 2022
When an interesting looking book has a complicated blurb with lots of qualifiers, I don't bother reading the whole thing. The blurb is usually only touching on major plot points anyway, and I'd rather not let a blurb set the scene or mood for me. I jump into the book and start reading instead, letting the writing do its thing. This book did its thing.

The beginning opens with the start of yet another long winter season as people are rushing about and preparing for hibernation. Characters are introduced, the long harsh winter season itself and the hibernation process are explained in between the intro and prep scenes, the rate of survival and the chance of coming out of hibernation as a nightwalker (zombie) are explained as well. The more we learn about hibernation, the more disturbing it seems. And then you get deeper into this world, learn how it works, who runs it, who actually runs it, what that all means/implies, and things become even more peculiar with each reveal.

Like bears and some rodents, humans go into hibernation during the cold months and reawaken in the spring as a form of adaptation, but not all who go into hibernation survive until the spring. Some die off during the winter, some become zombies. It's a risky process, and so there's a group aptly named the Winter Counsul to oversee the hibernation process, making the sacrifice to stay awake while everyone else sleeps to make sure hibernation goes as smoothly as possible. This story is told from the POV of one of the council members, Charlie, who is referred to by name or they/them.

Hibernation for humans is an interesting conceit that Jasper Fforde really ran with. Another interesting addition to the plot is incorporating a drug which increases one's chance of surviving hibernation and introducing the big pharma corp behind it into the mix. The drug's direct and side effects are simultaneously funny in theory and could be terrifying if real. Even though I think Fforde's takes are funny overall and make for a fun read, I don't think the social and political parameters around hibernation are delved into deeply enough or developed enough to explain how this world works in a believable (functional) way. But maybe believability (and functionality) wasn't what Fforde was aiming for; maybe he only wanted to entertain.

The writing is snappy and funny in that British way, the plot zany, the characters amusing and a bit screwball-ish, also in that British way, and the world doesn't take itself too seriously even though it feels like it's perpetually on the brink of disaster. Something is always happening, and Charlie is constantly moving from one emergency to the next. While this book is mostly science fiction, there is a fantastical, slightly absurd bent to all the science stuff, which keeps things interesting and the atmosphere from being too serious or dystopian. It's hard to maintain a stoic disposition in the face of strict government surveillance when the government personnel are a bit on the aloof side of dystopian.

This is not my first time reading Fforde, so I'm familiar with his style. It just didn't work for me in the past; too many literary references, nods, winks, nudges, etc. in the writing, which ended up being too distracting. It took away from the story being told rather than adding to it ironically enough as the series was based on the British classics. Those references are fine in small doses, but as a whole book series? Too much for me, personal preference and all that.

So, yeah, Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series did not work for me, and that had a lot to do with my not being a fan of Brit Lit. I struggled to finish the first book, and then years later I tried but had to abandon the second book when it felt too much like the first book (basically more of the same with different classics at stake). So I hadn't expected much from Early Riser (...more of the same?), but it turned out to be an engaging read and one that I looked forward to returning to at the end of each day.

This is the second book I read this year by an author whose pervious work did not work for me (the other one was Borne by Jeff Vandermeer), and it's got me thinking maybe I've been too quick to write off authors in the past. But do authors who didn't engage you the first time get a second or even a third try? It used to be a "hard no" for me, but maybe it's time to reconsider and ease up a bit on that hard no.
Profile Image for Sarah.
604 reviews145 followers
March 22, 2019
I’m being more kind with this book than my last couple. In truth I think it’s probably a 3.5 Star read. Not as meh as 3 stars, but not as great as a 4 Star read.

In the beginning, the reader is just dumped into this bizarre world where humans hibernate and have winter coats and “bulk up” for winter. It takes a long time for all the pieces to come together and get the hang of it, but on the bright side, there aren’t many info dumps.

I loved all the humor. There were a couple parts that had me laughing out loud. The intrigue takes a while to pull the reader in, but otherwise it was a pretty quick and easy read.

It was a little predictable in terms of the whodunnit, but I think there were enough twists and turns added in to the journey to make it feel unpredictable. Thinking back on the plot I feel like there were a couple plot threads that didn’t contribute much to the overall story, but they provided a little comic relief.

If I could change something about it I think I’d make the world building a little clearer. There’s talk about child bearing responsibilities- I would have liked to know more about why this was necessary? Winter is a killer, okay- but how many people are dying that they need to force child bearing duties upon people? I get that there is a higher rate of death among over winterers, but we aren’t given many stats about how many people aren’t surviving due to straight up starvation. The given (and inconsistent stats) don’t add up to making this a necessary requirement.

I was also very unclear on the time line. The latest reference I found was to something in 2003, but some references go back to the 19th century. The technology didn’t seem super advanced, but some of it also wasn’t familiar.

The other thing I will say is that I think it would have made a fantastic horror novel. The setting was great. Sector 12 was creepy and eerie. The myths and legends about wintervolk added to the horror vibes, but it never went full throttle. Nothing about it is truly scary but it could have been, so it ended up feel like missed potential.

All in all, not a bad read. I might check out other work by Fforde in the future.

Profile Image for Choko.
1,178 reviews2,570 followers
January 30, 2021
*** 3.85 ***

A very unique, weird and somehow hypnotic story, which is told from the point of view of the main character, a young man, somewhat of an outsider, who finds himself way over his head at a new job. This is alternative reality of our world, where at one point Earth's climate changed towards very, very cold ❄️❄️❄️, and during the winter completely frozen environment. This has made humans acquire adaptive physical traits, like a thick pelt and biological need to hibernate for the four heaviest winter months of the year. I noticed that the one person who is looked upon as a weird genetic mutation, had "very little need for sleep" at 8 hours out of every 24😎❄️. Obviously the rest of the folks sleep much more than that. So much so, that her ability to sleep so little had her knowing as much as a 22 year old at only 16... I had not even considered the effect so much sleep would have on the learning process.

Another big thing, apparently, was that many people couldn't calorie load enough for the hibernation, so a big chunk of the population was never able to awake, dangerously cutting down the humans... Motherhood became a priority for women, fathering children a chance for the best genes to be chosen for reprocreation, and many social and economic norms modified with population stabilization in mind.

With science working with that aim in mind, a company comes up with a medication which makes it possible for more people to survive through the hibernation and healthier, by curbing their dream states, which was discovered took a lot of the much needed for survival energy. However, there is an unintended side effect - a miniscule percentage of the population became "the walking undead"... Mindless Shells of the person who they had been, who if not fed right away with comfort food, become cannibalistic monsters... Yeah, and no one knows if it might be them...

I really enjoyed the story, but I think it was a tad stretched out. It was gripping, despite the slow and ponderous pace and had the weird and absurd traits of Fforde's signature writing style, which made it more palatable. Overall, I am glad I got to read it 👍😊
200 reviews
July 12, 2018
Reading this book was like re-connecting with an old friend. The characters might be different and the setting new but the style and humour were undeniably Fforde.

As always Fforde makes you feel right at home in the most improbable of settings, this time on an AU Earth at the start of the Ice Age like winter that Humans need to hibernate through. We follow Charlie (or Wonky as he is known to his annoyance) as he stays awake for his first Winter joining a small band of hardened people who stay awake to ensure that others are looked after while they sleep.

Being his first winter, Charlie should be spending it somewhere nice and safe indoors filing and making tea but fate seems to have other ideas in store for him as he keeps hearing about a viral dream involving a Blue Buick and creepy hands. Of course Charlie can't just ignore something like that can he....

Charlie was a likeable character from the start and only got more so as the book progressed. A nice guy who tried to do his best but somehow always ended up way over his head. There were some nice subtle nods to Fforde's back catalogue with mentions going to gingham fabric and Caravaggio (I'm sure there are others that I missed but these ones stood out. Sadly no Dodo's this time though!

A hugely fun read that I thoroughly recommend.

With thanks to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
January 9, 2019
"Winter isn't a season --- it's a calling."

I first heard of author Jasper Fforde on Litsy (my favorite book app of all time) when tons of people had rave reviews for The Eyre Affair (the first novel in the Thursday Next series).  I picked up a copy at the library and devoured the book, impressed with the overall originality and the humor!  I don't read many books routinely placed in the sci-fi / fantasy genres but Fforde has a way of taking the weird and making it seem normal in a parallel universe sort of way.  And the humor. Oh, the humor sells it if you're on the fence!

I was thrilled to find that Fforde took a break from the Thursday Next and Shades of Grey series to write this standalone!

In Early Riser we meet Charlie Worthing.  She grew up in a Pool, raised by The Sisters of Perpetual Gestation (with names like Mother Fallopia, Sister Zygotia, and Sister Vulvolia) who took their pledge of procreation pretty seriously.  After all, the population needs to stay strong and survive the winters.

In this world, humans hibernate in the winter.  A portion of the population is supplied by the company HiberTech with the drug Morphenox, allowing for a dreamless sleep.  The problem is, some people on Morphenox don't fully wake up in the Spring - they turn in to 'nightwalkers', which are essentially zombies (they have cannibalistic tendencies if not given regular snacks).

Charlie has joined the Winter Consul, a group of misfits who become law enforcement in winter, in charge of staying awake and ensuring the safety of the hibernating population from nightwalkers, villains, and the WinterVolk (mythical or not...?)

While most people hibernate dream-free through the winter, the guests on the ninth floor of a dormitory in Sector Twelve all begin dreaming the same dream about a blue Buick.  When the dreamers begin to die, Charlie investigates the "viral dream" and it leads her straight to the doors of HiberTech. She has been on Morphenox since childhood so she's surprised when she suddenly begins dreaming about the blue Buick.  When the dream becomes reality, Charlie questions her own sanity.

Who can she trust in the Consul?  Keeping the nightwalkers in line and avoiding villains isn't easy, her superior has split personalities (literally) so she can't seem to stay on her good side, and now she has to interpret a bizarre dream in order to make it through her first winter, though it could reveal dangerous secrets about HiberTech and the Morphenox most people depend on.

Fforde's signature style of compelling and quirky with a strong dose of humor shines in Early Riser!  This is definitely the book I would recommend to readers who want to give sci-fi/fantasy a try and obviously those who are already huge fans of the genre and/or enjoy dystopias.

Thanks to Viking and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Early Riser is scheduled for release in the United States on February 12, 2019.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Joc.
762 reviews174 followers
August 13, 2018
Winter is coming and the population needs to get fed for a four month long hibernation. Set in a present day alternate reality in Wales, Charlie ‘Wonk’ Worthing is assisting with the Fat Thursday celebrations which are aimed at getting people up to a weight sufficient to sustain them throughout the Winter. His job is pretty lack-lustre but gives him access Morphenox, a drug which prevents dreaming (which uses valuable energy resources) and only has a one in two thousand chance of turning you into a nightwalker (vacant, but alive). It’s also only available to the wealthy and those in certain types of employment.

On a whim he applies for the job as Winter Consul which, if he gets it, will guarantee his continued access to Morphenox but he won’t be hibernating because the Consuls stay awake to ensure that things keep running while everyone else sleeps. Charlie himself doesn’t see the logic in his decision but that’s what happens when one is irritated with a current employer. Staying awake presents so much more than Charlie bargained for. Cannibalistic Nightwalkers, Villians, mythical WinterVolk, viral dreams and competing agencies are just some of the things that come his way.

I’ve read nearly all of Fforde’s novels and I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on this one. While it was well-written, humorous, quirky and with a really clever plot, I found it to be slow going for 60% because it felt like all I was doing was separating the puzzle into edge pieces and colours (and a lot of them were white). After that the story kicks into gear and becomes the story I had hoped for all along.

Fforde has a phenomenal skill for world-building filled with bizarre and unusual characters and even though this might not be my favourite book of his, it’s still a good read.

Book received from Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an honest review.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,370 reviews376 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 5, 2019
DNF at 8%

I absolutely loved the Thursday Next novels. They are probably one of my most favorite things to read...ever.

And the premise of this one was incredibly interesting—people who hibernated during the winter (much like bears), and the few who stayed awake to guard them. Pseudo-zombies, politics and wild dreams are involved, which is definitely something that should bowl me over.

And yet...there's something about the writing that just had me disinterested. Perhaps it's because I'm going through a bit of a slump right now (I've already DNF'd one book and decided to not read another), but I'm not feeling this one.

Maybe later, I'll pick it back up again and try to continue. But right now, it's a no from me.

I received this ARC from Edelweiss for an honest review.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books687 followers
March 18, 2019
In an AU Wales, Novice Winter Consul Worthing is growing his wintercoat, trying to bulk up a bit, and preparing to spend his first Winter ever awake. He...mostly makes it and then promptly everything in Wales goes to hell. It is such a fun premise, and there were lots of cool things going on in the world but I'm not sure it all ever gelled for me.

CONTENT WARNING: (no spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things that were awesome:

-The world. It's sort of like "what if instead of global warming, we were heading into another Ice Age?" There are mammoths and saber tooth tigers! There's glaciers and dormitoria full of hibernating people! You can feel the cold sometimes!

-The cast of characters. I guess this is a plus and a minus. None really stand out, but they're all very different and interesting.

-Action packed. The first half was a lot of scene setting, the last half was pure action. Cliffhangers every chapter! Fiends! Robbers! The British! Stamp collecting! Zombies! It was a very quick read.

-Some of the prose. There were a few parts when Fforde hit his stride that were beautifully written. I don't mean this with any shade whatsoever, but it was almost like they belonged in another book. Most of this book was a bit campy and light and then there were moments that were just stunning in their visual or emotive quality.

Things that unraveled when I glared at them too hard:

-The Villain subplot. Totally unnecessary to this story and really took me out of the flow of things.

-The gronk. What even is it?

-The timeline. When is this taking place? We get all sorts of clues and each time I got a new one I was revised my estimate by a decade, which made a lot of previous things feel incongruous. Then of course there's the internal timeline too which was a bit helter skelter.

-Internal consistency. There are about 5x too many zombies in this sector, given one of the statistics, and about 8x too many given the other statistic. Things that are common become scarce, things that are scarce are hidden in all sorts of dormitories, the cold that kills one person doesn't kill another...there's a lot of handwaving and demands that we just suspend our disbelief. As it wasn't a very serious book, this was okay but it nagged at me. It wouldn't have been more than a couple weeks of work to go through and plug up the plot holes. This felt very much like a thin idea that needed to bulk up for Winter and he figured it out as it went.

-The knowledge distribution. Who knew what about which elements was...surprising. It didn't make sense to me that the characters who ended up being useful could be entirely taken at their word.

-Narrative structure. I didn't care for the footnotes, which didn't add anything for me. The little passages at the beginning were a good way of avoiding infodump but also didn't feel to me like most of them had any bearing on what I was reading.

-Summary ending. God, I just do not like this as the end of a story. As an epilogue? Sure, okay. But please, let the story come to rest naturally! The rest of the book had every detail spelled out, why would you only do the highlights for the end? I realize this is a me-thing more than a him-thing but bah! I just get so grouchy when my closure is given to me like a report rather than a story.

It was a romp--I finished the last half in essentially one sitting. I think this book also suffered because the humor wasn't right for me and I happen to be reading another book with British wit that I like better. If you're looking for something easy and different, this wasn't bad but I would be unlikely to recommend it to others without very specific prompts. I think I would have preferred it more as a novella.
Profile Image for Alvar Borgan.
45 reviews3 followers
December 20, 2018
Eine Welt, in der die Eiszeit nie geendet hat. In der die Menschen sich angepasst haben und Winterschlaf halten. In dieser Welt spielt Jasper Ffordes Roman "Eiswelt" - ein Roman, den man am besten im Herbst oder Winter liest, unter der Bettdecke, während man sich wünscht, den Wecker ausstellen und selbst in den Winterschlaf fallen zu können.

Ich habe die Geschichte (für meine Verhältnisse) in Rekordzeit gelesen. Tatsächlich ist sie wunderbar flüssig geschrieben, mäandert wie ein quicklebendiges Flüsschen von einem Schauplatz zum anderen. Der Hauptcharakter "Matschbirne" Charlie lässt sich großenteils einfach auf dem Fluss der Handlung treiben - dem Anspruch an einen Protagonisten, ein Handelnder zu sein, will er gar nicht gerecht werden.

In dieser Hinsicht erinnert mich Charlie an Rincewind, den Zauberer aus Terry Pratchetts Scheibenwelt, dessen Hauptaufgabe oft auch eher im Weglaufen besteht. Und ja, der Roman begegnet den Härten des Winters mit typisch englischem Humor (obwohl er streng aus walisischer Perspektive geschrieben ist). Insgesamt würde ich "Eiswelt" aber nicht mit den Werken Terry Pratchetts oder Douglas Adams vergleichen wollen.

Seine Stärken spielt das Setting immer dort aus, wo es unseren Erwartungen diametral entgegengesetzt ist: Den Bewohnern der Eiswelt geht es nicht darum, die schlanke Linie zu halten, sondern sich genügend Winterfett anzufuttern. Klimawandel spielt eine Rolle, aber nur insofern, als möglichst viel CO2 freigesetzt werden soll, um eine globale Erwärmung in Gang zu bringen.

Neben den humorigen Seiten ist der Winter in Eiswelt aber auch brutal - Todesfälle und Nachtwandler genannte Quasi-Zombies gehören zum Alltag, und auch die Lebenden zeigen oft erstaunliche Physiognomien. An den sarkastischen Umgang mit den allgegenwärtigen Grausamkeiten des Winters muss man sich als Leser gewöhnen.

Die Charaktere werden nicht gerade subtil gezeichnet - aber meist steckt zumindest mehr hinter ihrer Fassade, als der Roman zuerst preisgibt - und harte Winter sind auch keine Umgebung, in der subtile Eigenschaften gut gedeihen würden. Trotzdem war ich irritiert, wie kommentarlos der Ich-Erzähler über Faustschläge aufs Auge und Zombiebisse hinweggeht - der körperliche Schmerz wird kaum beschrieben. Auch an anderen Stellen, etwa beim Tod einer alten Bekannten, kam mir die Gefühlsebene zu kurz.

Wer mag, kann sich an Steampunk-Elementen wie Gaslaternen, Phonographenwalzen und Druckluftwaffen erfreuen. Allerdings werden auch LED-Lichter erwähnt, Cary Grant und die gesamte Palette moderner Kalorienbomben wie Snickers, Nutella und Cadbury's Trauben-Nuss-Schokolade. Insgesamt hinterlässt der Weltenbau (mit Ausnahme der genau beschriebenen Waffen) leider einen etwas verworrenen Eindruck.

Die Handlung ist im Großen und Ganzen logisch, auch wenn es durchaus fragliche Elemente gibt. Wie sich beispielsweise das außergewöhnliche Verhältnis von Toccata zu Aurora in der Praxis genau gestalten soll, darüber denkt man besser nicht zu genau nach.

Trotz der kritischen Anmerkungen hat mich das Buch absolut gefesselt. Nicht zuletzt, weil es zu allem, was es andeutet, dann auch liefert. Jedes Gewehr, das vorkommt, wird auch abgefeuert. Meine Empfehlung: Einfach lesen, solange es kalt ist.
144 reviews
October 16, 2018
I wanted to love this, as I love the rest of Jasper Fforde's books, but I struggled a bit. It has his usual clever cultural twists and references to familiar things out of context (Rick Astley makes an appearance here), but doesn't always explain them - for some reason children are brought up in a Pool, which is never properly explained, as if he forgot to go back to the explanation.

Set in an alternative reality where people hibernate through Winter (which is much harsher), and take drugs to give them dreamless sleep. Only a few people stay awake, including dangerous Villains, security, the shadowy pharmaceutical firm who manufacture the drugs and the Consuls, who make sure things run smoothly despite the hazards of the Wintervolk. Charlie joins the Consuls and finds himself involved in a viral dream, which has much more to it than it originally appears, plus looking after those who never fully wake up from hibernation. There's a good story in there, and the usual Fforde range of characters but it was a little drowned out by the world-building, just slightly too much information to digest to try and make sense of it all whilst still following the story, as if Fforde got a bit carried away.

It's not that I wouldn't recommend reading it, but it's probably more for existing Fforde fans rather than bringing new ones in, and I can't help but wish he'd written a new Shades of Grey book instead.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,887 followers
September 6, 2019
Jasper Fforde has brilliantly weird ideas, which carry through with varying success for me. I found this one--where the world has terrible winters and most people hibernate--ingenious, and a lot of fun, also the evil corporation, but after a while the plot didn't quite hold together enough for it to be entirely satisfying to me.

I also had quite a problem with an idea that's sketched in but not explored--basically that there's some sort of legal requirement for women to bear children, but at the same time it seems to be a matriarchal society where there are a few eccentric men's rights activists? I mean, I'm very glad it wasn't a Handmaid's Tale book, but the underlying principles are never explained or explored and as a uterus-owner, I found that highly distracting. Overall, bit of a curate's egg for me, though told with vim.

Profile Image for penwing.
43 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2018
It's... Alright. It is very similar to Shades of Grey which is a shame as it only highlights how it's not Shades of Grey (which you should absolutely, definitely read).
Profile Image for Mike.
478 reviews370 followers
July 13, 2019
This was an enjoyable story set in a neat alternative earth where winters are so brutal species (including humans) have evolved to hibernate through it. It is Earth and has Earth's history, but tweaked to take into account these sorts of Winters, from popular art, to architecture, to cultural customs. The story is about those that do not hibernate the the machinations of a powerful corporation with some fun supernatural folklore thrown in. I would have loved some further exploration of the world (we really only see a part of Wales and snippets of world history) but I didn't feel like this information was essential to the story. It is a good standalone book that is well worth the time invested in reading it.
Profile Image for Fiona.
818 reviews429 followers
September 20, 2018
Clever and original, as Fforde always is, this just isn’t holding my attention enough to make me stay with it until the end. It might have worked better as a short story or as a novella. As Miss Jean Brodie would have said, ‘For those that like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.’ It’s just not for me.

With thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for a free review copy.
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