Book Review: Early Riser – by Jasper Fforde


Scifi, Dystopian

Viking; February 12, 2019

402 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

Early Riser opens upon an alternate Wales that’s seen an early Ice Age, one of many, and features long, cold winters followed by pleasant, warm spells during which time all of humanity basks in the sun’s glow, gorges themselves on food and drink, and prepares for a long winter ahead. A winter that most will sleep away. While the majority of the populace hibernates—enjoying a dreamless sleep in one of many specialized dormitories, towering over the Welsh countryside—those few in the Consul Service mind them, making certain nothing disturbs their slumber.

First year Winter Consul Charlie Worthing is untested, straight out of St. Granata’s Orphanage. Shortly into the text he is recruited by Chief Consul Jack Logan into the Consul Service as a Novice, but quickly achieves the rank of Deputy, even before his first winter is well and truly underway. But though many threats brave the winter’s embrace—Nightwalkers (they’re like slow, shambling zombies), Villains (mostly English rogues), Megafauna, womads, scavengers, insomniacs, and the mysterious Wintervolk—the greatest threat to Worthing and the sleepers may instead come from within. See, during their hibernation, humanity takes Morphenox, a drug that suppresses dreaming. Instead, in the blink of an eye, they pass from summer to summer, albeit many pounds lighter. A season later, they turn and do it all over again. But something troublesome is traversing the halls of the Sector 12 Dormitorium. Viral dreams. Odd, yet consistent. A blue Buick. A beach in summer. A photograph.

Charlie Worthing initially dismisses the viral dreams as nonsense. Until he has one.

The blue Buick. The beach in summer. The artist living next door. The photograph shared, and yet… Something is wrong with the dream. But Charlie is careful with this newfound knowledge. For if people find out he’s been dreaming, life will certainly get interesting.

Well, MORE interesting.

Add in a pair of women who are one, a beautiful woman that Charlie loves, a dude named Shamanic Bob, a mystery that’s made all the more mysterious by the fact that it’s a mystery what exactly the mystery IS, and the Gronk—a legendary Wintervolk (although all Wintervolk are legendary in the sense that really no one believes they exist) that preys upon those unlucky enough to run across it in the snows, leaving behind nothing more than a neatly folded pile of clothes—and, well, you get Early Riser.

Personally, I found it quite spellbinding until the end. Whereupon in goes all Inception and dream-hopping confuses the very nature of causality. And I got lost. I actually reread the ending three times before giving in. Stuff happens, I’m just not sure of the specifics.

Charlie is a quite likable character. A great narrator, too. The world flows well through his eyes, normalcy and weirdness alike. Okay, so mostly weirdness. I… what more can I say about it?

I like the cover.

Bottomline, it’s an entertaining, if ultimately confusing adventure. Set in a vividly imagined, if confusing winter world. Starring intricate, odd characters. Up to the 90% mark, I was all for giving it 5 stars. The ending was a disappointment. But everything leading up to it was pure—if muddy—excellence.

And, yeah.

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