Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Hardcover, 403 pages
Published 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton
Years ago, I read The Eyre Affair by Mr. Fforde and came away vastly entertained. A lot of other people were as well, it seems, as a series of adventures featuring the literary troubleshooter Thursday Next poured from Mr. Fforde. These did not entertain me as much. I do love wry humour, dry humour and even doses of zany humour, but these books were increasingly, well, "silly". Nonstop silly. Silly for the sake of being silly. Silly overriding any sort of plot or tension or forward action. Silly to the point that I expected the stuffy major from Monty Python skits to stomp into the scene and demand the proceedings stop on account of being too silly.
Maybe the major did just that. The books certainly allowed for it. I, however, was no longer reading them by the time he did.
So, the years dribbled by with me acknowledging Mr. Fforde as a damned creative and clever writer, but not for me, thanks anyway.
And apparently enough years went by that my irritation blurred and faded until only my foggy admiration remained. When I saw this new novel, I was immediately intrigued. The clincher came in two parts: 1) It didn't appear to require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in English Literature to fully appreciate. 2) It was a stand-alone novel and not part of a #*@&#! series.
What a wonderful blast of fresh arctic air! It doesn't require a Lit degree, but a lifetime of SF&F reading certainly helped. By that I mean, Fforde sets the reader on a strange twist of an Earth and without a suffocating info-dump nor rambling pre-amble, starts off at a brisk trot. It's one of those races where the reader simply has to trust the author and his skill will keep feeding us details to follow the track and not trip up. Any and all previous training in dealing with bizarre alien worlds will only help.
And he does. Tidbits and morsels and offhand remarks place jigsaw pieces to expand the world picture with nearly every page.
(I am tempted to start the book over so I know what some of the background terminology means from the first page)
This "winter Earth" (focussing on Wales) is an elaborate creation and I enjoyed every snow flake of it. It's strange and crazy and Jasper Fforde at the height of his convoluted creativity. And while it gets odd in some places, a little goofy in others, it never gets "silly". Despite the plot revolving around the dead of winter and people lying in hibernation, it is a frenetic action-packed tale that covers a mere handful of waking days for Our Hero, Charlie Worthing.
As always with my reviews here, I don't bother with plot details. Read the blurb-synopsis on the back of the book for such information. Early Riser is a fun, engaging romp that will have you thinking differently about winter and wondering about any dreams you have tonight...
PS And Jasper Fforde is a role-model for me as an author. Not that I could match that convoluted creativity, but that he publishes books like these that defy easy labelling as "science fiction" or "fantasy" and add frown lines to people who find a place for books on their shelves. I want to write what I want to write, not to write to order for a particular niche market and demographic.