‘Early Riser’ Jasper Fforde Book Review

A winter nightmare in snow-bound Wales.

Imagine a world where human inhabitants must bulk-up and hibernate through brutally cold winters, watched over by armed Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently guard the susceptible sleeping citizens.  Or do they?

“Early Riser” is the latest novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.

A unique and inventive writer, Welsh resident Jasper Fforde creates a mystery novel with skewed social values, high level corruption, bureaucratic cover-ups, bad dreams, mindlessness and the ever-present fear of freezing to death, all set in a bleak yet frighteningly droll otherworld in Wales.

Perfect for the cold northern hemisphere and a cool read for the hot southern hemisphere.

SPOILER ALERT – Jasper Fforde should have his own genre, writing a review is difficult!  Please note the book contains references to real food brand names.

Jasper Fforde is known for creating strong female characters and in “Early Riser” he does not disappoint.  Aurora and Toccata immediately spring to mind but I won’t go into details.  Let’s just say they are not related to Thursday Next, although there are a couple of fan-fic moments.

In this speculative postmodern standalone, the protagonist is Charlie Worthing, a novice Winter Consul who has been trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters.

Although rather young and innocent, Charlie is chosen to accompany notable Winter Consul and hero, Jack Logan, to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of snow-covered Wales.  It’s an honour but Charlie is not at all prepared for what awaits in frigid Sector Twelve.

Part of Charlie’s job is to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation and, first up, there’s the care and delivery of a vacant Nightwalker Mrs Tiffen which causes an unexpected disaster.

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With a facial deformity which quickly earns him a nickname, poor Charlie learns dreaming is not encouraged.  Especially not about a mysterious blue Buick or a large beach parasol, part of the main “Early Riser” plot.  He floats in and out of another Charlie’s dream, and also has problems with a young woman, Jonesy, who takes a fancy to him and decides to create their own backstory as if they are an old married couple.

Winter Consuls carry a Thumper and a Bambi which are deadly guns or, for extra grunt, a Vortex Canon is deployed when necessary to blast snow and anything in it.  Thus Deputy Charlie begins Pantry Duty, guarding the winter pantry, under the tutelage of seasoned campaigner Fodder – and things get even weirder!

 

"Dark humour and entertaining pseudo geek-speak punctuate an otherwise intense novel which touches on community issues relevant today" GBW.

In “Early Riser” prominent themes are human relationships, mental health, bad coffee and sugary food as the isolated enclave carbo-load in preparation for the enforced SlumberDown.  Certain behaviour, although legal in this story, is reprehensible by our standards.  In Sector Twelve nothing is wasted, so-called Vacants become unpaid workers or body-farmed for those who have lost limbs due to rat gnawing or frost bite.

In most of Jasper Fforde’s tales, the world is run by an evil corporation and here we have HiberTech which supplies Morphenox drugs and encourages the growing of a winter “coat” for hibernation.  Charlie encounters The Notable Goodnight, shivers hearing the maybe-less-than-mythical Gronk, and has a shock meeting with posh Villains.  Snowy dangers abound, like WinterVolk and Campaigners For Real Sleep.  Classic Fforde!

I listened to the “Early Riser” audio book and narrator Thomas Hunt does a variety of accents which keep the pacing levels high.  His Attenborough-like chapter introductions are hilarious, a blend of hushed tones and Fforde’s dry wit.  Wales comes across as a kind of decimated never-never land, and I’m sure it’s not, but thankfully snow is a rare commodity in Australia otherwise I’d be shaking in my shoes.

+ PLUS Innovative story with a world in a world, the snowbound and the dream-state.
– MINUS Some repetition and some chapters are heavy with world-building.

Book rating 4-Star and recommended for readers who can handle comprehensively quirky writing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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“Jasper Fforde writes…authentic tales of metafictional mystery and murder most horrid lashed with literary wit and a generous helping of humour.” by Niall Alexander of tor.com Fri Aug 3, 2018 1:30pm
https://www.tor.com/2018/08/03/book-reviews-early-riser-by-jasper-fforde/

‘The Last Dragonslayer’ by Jasper Fforde

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The Last Dragonslayer novels by Jasper Fforde

While Thursday Next lives in a parallel universe, The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world of myths, illusions and modern magic.

Orphan Jennifer Strange, a practical teenager, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management with eccentric magicians who create irregular spells.  But magic and dragons are losing power and Jennifer discovers evil King Snodd IV wants to grab the Dragonlands, 350 acres of prime real estate.  Jennifer dislikes the King’s greed and so does the last Dragonslayer, an old wizard named Brian who controls dragons with an ancient sword.

Helped by her cool friend Tiger Prawns, and a metal-munching Quarkbeast with frighteningly sharp teeth, Jennifer rallies to protect the Dragonlands.  Meanwhile, wizard Brian is hatching a secret plan.  Jennifer doesn’t realise she is part of that plan.

This is the first book in Last Dragonslayer/Kazam Chronicles by Jasper Fforde and I loved reading their vital quest.  Suitable for 12 years and up, the second and third books are The Song Of The Quarkbeast and The Eye Of Zoltar.  There will be a fourth book in the series but at this stage only working titles have been released; possibly Humans vs Trolls or The Strange And The Wizard or The Great Troll War.  Guess we’ll just have to wait for the next quirky edition!

Author Jasper Fforde

Publisher Hodder & Stoughton UK

Movie by Mallinson Television Productions on Vimeo screened by Sky1

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

The Last Dragonslayer Jennifer Strange

Jasper Fforde 2018-2019 Author Events

Excited beyond belief when I found out Jasper Fforde, my all-time favourite post-modern author, has some cool events coming up!  Including another book.  And the eponymous Fforde Ffiesta rolls around again next year.  If any reader attended a recent US event, or may be attending a future UK event, I’m jealous, but hoping I will read your WordPress review.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Photos by Mari Fforde (hover to see date)
Information from Jasper Fforde website (see below)


APPEARANCES

 Jasper Fforde says:  As usual, please call the venue to check times and dates before you set out just in case I am kidnapped by badgers, eager to promote their dangerous monochrome agenda.
Gretchen says: New book “Early Riser” is now available.  Read my review here
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/12/14/early-riser-jasper-fforde-book-review/\


2018


Feb 21st-22nd, Casper, Wyoming:
Wyoming Humanities Festival 2018

Book signing and lectures. I’ve never been to Wyoming, and the frightfully pleasant people at Casper have been asking me for a while. Talk and Book Signing Courtesy of Windy City Books, and a lecture plus Q&A the following day. Full details at the Humanities Festival website.


1-2nd March 2018, Cardiff Library:
Crime & Coffee Festival, Cardiff

First Crime and Coffee Festival at Cardiff Library. More details to follow, but I am assured the coffee is the crime, and there will be no actual murders of crimes taking place. Either days, or both, details to follow. Cardiff Library Website.


24th May-3rd June 2018
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales:
May or may not be attending this year––One of the UK’s most imaginative and entertaining authors creates hilarious, often absurd but always compelling adventures within bizarre and zany worlds.  Jasper Fforde’s hugely popular The Last Dragonslayer series is packed with trademark magic and invention.”
Information brochure Hay Festival, Wales.
Gretchen’s book review The Last Dragonslayer.


August 2018
Launch of Early Riser in the UK:

About bloody time too, say I.  Likely 1st to 12th August.  More details to follow.


August 13th – 18th, 2018, Wales:
Ty Newydd writing retreat, Wales

With Belinda Bauer, the course is called: Crime Fiction: A Twist in the Tale and from their website: “This course is designed for those who would like to write best-selling crime fiction – with a twist. Whether you’re writing your first novel, are switching from another genre, or have only dreamed of being a published author, we hope you’ll enjoy this down-to-earth, fun, and practical course. In workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions, we will be sharing our tried and tested methods of creating character, plot and tension, while helping you to avoid some common pitfalls. We’ll offer advice on a range of issues, from writer’s block and the art of pitching, to how to cope with bad reviews!”
For more details, please mouse you way to the Ty Newydd Website.


2019


Early Riser Tour Jasper Fforde


25th-26th May 2019, Swindon, UK:
Fforde Ffiesta VIII, Swindon, UK

These Festivals are held biannually and oh, what ffun we have – and hopefully a lot more to talk about this year as I will have at least one more book published… Their website is here.


FUTURE ENGAGEMENTS


March 02031:   Asteroid belt and Saturn (technology permitting) More details TBA.

October 02042:   81-year-old Fforde talks to other members of old people’s home: “I used to be a novelist, no really, I did. Is it lunchtime?” More details TBA.

July 02175:   Semi-lifelike cloned Ffordesque replicant to tour Gamma Quadrant in the Cygnus Cluster. More details TBA.

Setember 03431:   Much improved Fforde cloned back to life to face execution for sedition; all works consigned to erasure.

Janfebry 008910:   Last evidence of Fforde’s books vanish forever with the removal of the ‘Formerly Thursday Street’ plaque from what is now W23-61 Rd in the conurbation known as EuroWest-79.

00012972:    Visiting archaeologists from Thraal-7 discover incomplete copy of Well of Lost Plots from excavation in landfill. Deciphering takes seven hundred years and a further four hundred years of academic scrutiny before being accepted as historical fact.


More ffun, books, merchandising, photos  Jasper Fforde Grand Central
For those who like a bit of backstory  Wikipedia – Author Jasper Fforde
Twitter  @jasperfforde
Instagram  Jasper Fforde
Facebook   Jasper Fforde Writer


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Book Series

As a dyed-in-the-wool Jasper Fforde ffan, I recommend Shades Of Grey.  No, not that one!

Shades Of Grey deviates from Fforde’s brilliantly off-kilter, zany other-Britain adventures of Thursday Next, a LiteraTech operative for SpecOps-27, a crime fighting division inside literary fiction – literally – but there is some serious world building going on.  The Fforde trademark of inventiveness and unusual plot twists is there but the tone is sombre, the protagonist Eddie Russett lives in a tightly controlled world with a rigid hierarchy based on primary colours.  However, Eddie is not stupid and rises to the challenge of solving a perplexing mystery with the aid of some ‘colourful’ locals and a feisty Grey woman, Jane.

I have to say it is not my all-time favourite book in Fforde’s repertoire: Thursday Next wins.  I found the ending unsatisfying (except discovering where spoons go) although I do think it has been left open for a sequel.  If you’ve read the odd humour of Douglas Adams or inimitable Terry Pratchett and want a neo-noir version, try Jasper Fforde for ffun.  There’s enough books to keep you going!

Fforde has also written humorous Nursery Crimes series, and The Last Dragonslayer series about teenager Jennifer Strange.  Her agency, Kazam, employs weird and wonderful wizards who create magic and mayhem.

Check the website Grand Central http://www.jasperfforde.com/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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