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.
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.