cover image Early Riser

Early Riser

Jasper Fforde. Viking, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-670-02503-9

In this richly detailed, dystopic novel from Fforde (the Thursday Next series), most of the population of Wales hibernates in huge Dormitoria through the unbearable Winter. The poor hope not to end up Dead in Sleep, while the elite, benefiting from the designer drug Morphenox, fare better but also risk becoming barely functional nightwalkers, used for manual labor and spare body parts. Charlie Worthing, awake as the newest member of the order-maintaining team of Winter Consuls, is thrown into chasing the mystery of a killer viral dream in opposition to government and business forces alike. The sprightly characters, such as the murderous Villains maintaining the habits of English sophisticates, and the intimately feuding pair of Chief Consul Toccata and Aurora, the head of HiberTech security, bring absurdity into the ambiance, but behave understandably enough to be credible. Charlie’s confused but determined mundanity is a relatable anchor in this wild winter world, leavened by Fforde’s surrealistic humor. Douglas Adams fans will enjoy the vibe. Author tour. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit U.K. (Feb.)