Charlie Worthing is a Winter Consul for the first time, meaning that they get to stay awake with a selected few to take care of the world while the rest of the people goes into their yearly hibernation. Hibernation has become less risky thanks to scientific advantages from HiberTech, but it is still a dangerous thing that not everybody survives or that produces “nightwalkers” – people with limited brain functions. So, Charlie has some big responsibilities on their plate – among them an outbreak of viral dreams. But that is just the beginning of a long winter season.
Early Riser is the first Fforde novel in a few years (and even longer if you’re just looking at novels for adults), so my expectations where high indeed. Fortunately, the book definitely delivers – it bursts with ideas and is an extremely fun read.
Fforde always has a keen eye for world-building and this novel is no different. It is filled to the brim with idea after idea. I mean, hibernation alone! This wealth of ideas can feel a little chaotic, especially since the plot develops in an apparently haphazard fashion as well. But at the end of the day, everything fits together here.
I will admit that it took me a bit to get into the novel – probably because it takes a while to just orient yourself in that world and how it works. But once I got into the groove of things, it was a quick and above all entertaining read.
Charlie is a wonderful character. I liked that their gender was never revealed and they were actually referred to with they/them pronouns. And I liked that they are disfigured, but that this disfiguration wasn’t actually all that important – just one thing of many about Charlie.
It wouldn’t be a Fforde novel if it didn’t have a sense of humor and it is funny indeed. I was worried that I might have too high hopes for this novel, but fortunately I was right to expect much. And I hope that the next book won’t be quite as long a wait.