The feverish inventiveness of Jasper Fforde’s latest novel is exhaustive — and at times exhausting. His imagined world is thoroughly packed with detail, but reading lines such as, 'He’s womad stock; Oldivician, I think. Part of his midwinter freezerthon,' can make you wilt ... Fforde’s comic touch — which includes unexpected references to everything from Showaddywaddy to Tunnock’s teacakes — just about balances out the geekery of this alternate reality, and the thriller side of the tale is addictively propulsive.
Readers familiar with Fforde’s gleefully pun-heavy world building will relish this stand-alone novel, confident that everything will work out in the end for the underdog. Give it to fans of John Scalzi and Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series.
Jasper Fforde is in fine form in his 14th novel, stringing along this adventure with wry wit, a sometimes-bonkers plot and a joke that takes a hundred pages to sneakily find its punchline. If not for the absurdity of the tale, Early Riser could’ve easily been a mere allegory of the dangers of global warming and Big Pharma. But what matters most is the nature of humanity, as empathy saves the day, and our good guy has no reason to wonder just how good he is.
Oft-amusing, but only occasionally likely to elicit laughs, and as imaginative as anything he’s ever written, if woefully overburdened by worldbuilding, Fforde’s long-awaited new novel is ultimately a bunch of fun, yet it fails to leave a lasting impression like the likes of Shades of Grey, say ... interesting in the end, and full of neat ideas that hold a far-from-flattering mirror to elements of our own existence, but so poorly paced and plot heavy that the remainder is the rub. Similarly, the setting is engrossing and almost criminally original, but Albion is a world built on the back of interminable info-dumps and masses of jargon. And all this hangs on a central character who might be witty and well-meaning, but proves so exasperatingly passive that even he might as well be asleep ... has a lot to say and, for the most part, says it in an interesting way. The message, in short, is sound—but the medium, in this particular instance? Maybe not so much.
However, in the end, Early Riser is a bit disjointed and confusing, though still often funny and insightful ... [The book] can feel a bit chaotic and hard to manage, even though it is so intriguing. Overall, this is a great tale, overburdened and maybe overwritten, but compelling enough to shine in some cool ways ... Dedicated and diligent readers will find much to savor in Early Riser.
Charlie’s journey through the especially isolated and dangerous area called Sector Twelve is so absorbing, and Fforde’s wit so sharp, the reveal that the narrative is also a commentary on capitalism comes across as a brilliant twist. Fforde writes in the acknowledgments that he hopes to return to a quicker publishing schedule, but this wonderful tale was well worth the wait ... Whip-smart, tremendous fun, and an utter delight from start to finish.