‘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.

Featured Image -- 8551

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

IMG_20181210_123908

“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/

I Agree with Herbert

H G Wells House Plaque
Plaque by the H. G. Wells Society at Chiltern Court, Baker Street in the City of Westminster, London, where Wells lived between 1930 and 1936.

“No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document” said Herbert George Wells, and I know the feels––Herbert is better recognised as H. G. Wells, an exceptional English author, satirist and biographer (21 Sept 1866 – 13 Aug 1946) who famously wrote The Invisible ManWar of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

I can understand how the fingers of Mr Wells must have itched, his brain must have misfired and his breath must have been shallow as he read a paragraph which badly needed editing.  Indeed, I often wonder how some books (or e-books) get into print when it is glaringly obvious they need a bit of trimming and correction.

Just recently I read an e-book with blurb announcing an award, author kudos and high sales.  Undeserved as far as I’m concerned.  Why?  The author had no idea of descriptive body language.  The best he could do was “He frowned”, “She frowned”, and for variety “He scowled”, “She scowled” until I deleted the book at “She wrinkled her brow”.

How did this get loose and launched on the general reading public?  I’m sure Rule 101 is “If in doubt, substitute ‘said’ and let the dialogue do the work”.  Don’t repeat yourself.  Unpublished as I am, I guess the writer can sneer and say “Well, I got the pay cheque and you didn’t” but I can retort with “Have some integrity.”  Or go back to writing classes.

It’s easy to think “Not all publishing houses are that blind” but, oh, many are.  If you haven’t read a book with an error, you haven’t read enough books.  Pathetically, hardly a week goes by without my subconscious editing a typo or tidying a sentence.  I will never know how efficient I am, whether I am always right, but, man, it makes me feel better!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Proofreading Copy Editing Banner
Proof-reading is the first step, make it count…

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


Coincidence: Where Were You When?

The Princess Diarist Carrie Fisher

I was listening to the audio recording of “The Princess Diarist” by actress Carrie Fisher, read by Carrie Fisher, when she passed away. I was already freaked hearing her true tales from the first Star Wars movie so the news bulletin got to me.

Carrie Fisher delivers a robust narration of her early acting career and famous mother Debbie Reynolds, whose death followed her own within days. Admittedly Carrie’s use and abuse of a variety of substances had ruined her voice and it could not be likened to that of youthful Princess Leia, but her naïve discontent and vitriolic humour pepper the story.

A frank look at the early life of a young woman shaped by Hollywood and eventually defined by George Lucas and his sci-fi series.  The extraordinary 1977 Star Wars movie launched her fame, hair buns and an affair with Harrison Ford, making this book a slice of Tinseltown history with big appeal for fans of the first Star Wars production.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Star Wars Poster
May The Force

The Thirteenth Doctor

Doctor Who number thirteen is Jodie Whittaker.  After media speculation and BBC misdirection for several years, the first female Doctor has been revealed.  The newly appointed Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, has been quoted as saying:

Jodie Whittaker Dr Who
Doctor Who

“To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in this legendary role.”

Note:  The series “Doctor Who” is a British time-travelling science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963.

Quote:  Rolling Stone magazine Monday 17 July 2017 : Photo BBC

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Dr Who Daleks
Ice-Cream Lamingtons

 

Sci-Fi Comes to Life

IMG_0321
Static

When a mature person says to me “I don’t understand new technology” my reply is “If a human invented it, a human can use it”.  I believe every senior can master modern technology, and benefit from it.

I wasn’t always pro-IT, I thought it was invasive and time-wasting, not to mention eroding our good manners.  You know, that person who keeps one eye on their mobile phone, flicking their thumb over the screen while you’re trying to have a conversation.  I avoided e-readers, I kept my landline phone and used a small pre-paid mobile for texting only.  Then I realised I was missing out on a lot of good things!

“Digital technology allows us a much larger scope to tell stories that were pretty much the grounds of the literary media” – George Lucas
Read more https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/digital_technology

Things like blogging, exploring a holiday destination with Google Maps, or my cousin walking around her kitchen with a laptop while I viewed the design via Skype.  And the ability to download an e-book or watch a video on my iPad any time of the day or night.  The joy of being connected to the internet for instant information on my mobile, staying in touch simply and easily, this liberation never ceases to amaze me.  Everything from family to fashion, bookings to e-newsletter subscriptions, all via technology.

In the State Library of Queensland Digital Futures Lab, one of my delights is showing seniors the Augmented Reality Sandpit and Virtual Reality.  They are just as gob-smacked as me.  It is our early viewing diet of sci-fi shows coming to life!  Perhaps phone etiquette needs improving, and I may never give myself over to 24/7 connectivity, but I enjoy the benefits of IT and have fun exploring the endless world wide web on a device as small as my hand.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

N.B. This post also appeared on State Library of Queensland blog for Seniors Week.
http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/slq-today/2017/08/10/sci-fi-comes-to-life/

Jasper Fforde Ffun

Fforde Ffotos 012
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

Thursday Next Camoflage 001
LibCamo
Thursday Next SpecOps-27
Fangirl
Jasper Fforde Dodo 002
Pickwick Dodo