A madcap adventure through the Welsh winter, which has grown so deadly most humans literally sleep through it. Charlie Worthing has decided to join the Winter Consul Service, the select group of people who don’t hibernate through winter in order to keep the sleepers safe until they wake up in the spring.
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.
... Early Riser has all of the elements and sensibility that have earned Fforde a sizable and devoted following: wordplay, allusion, a playful exuberance and — of course — his signature method of World-Building via Copious and Suggestive Use of Capitalization, often in the service of creating Imaginary Socioeconomic Hierarchies and Related Governmental Agencies ... Fforde writes witty, chewy sentences, full of morsels, and delivers them deadpan ... There is a sense of wanting it all to add up to a bit more. To feel that the witticisms and allusions are not only clever but insightful ... It’s not so much that the book is less than the sum of its parts. It’s just that there are so many parts. Early Riser, while never underwritten, can be at times a bit underfelt, the verbal dexterity crowding out the room for emotion ... The flip side of the whimsicality, of skipping along, is wanting to slow down at times, to deepen our feelings about the characters ... But Fforde brings it around in the end. His relentless imagination and his affection for his characters are contagious and irresistible ... Early Riser may not be my favorite of his novels, but I laughed and had fun. As long as he keeps his literary party going, I’ll keep dropping in.
Like Fforde’s earlier novels, Early Riser plunges the reader into a wacky reality that takes awhile to figure out, pulled along by charismatic characters, a humming plot and plenty of funny lines. It gets a little grim, with zombielike 'nightwalkers' that never quite wake up from the annual monthslong sleep, but becomes hard to put down once our hero, newbie Winter Consul Charlie Worthing, one of the few trying to stay awake and “overwinter,” starts dreaming the viral dream that’s going around in Sector Twelve.