A Happy Ending to Global Cooling: A Book Review of Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Imagine if climate change resulted in four months of government, mandated hibernation every year. Before conjuring up images of blizzards and meltdowns, think about extended isolation periods for all of humanity. Jasper Fforde raises fresh goosebumps with doomsday thoughts on every page of his latest novel, Early Riser. A science fiction dystopian novel set in Wales begs the question: To what lengths would humans go to survive a major climate crisis?
Charlie Worthington, the protagonist and instant sweetheart, is awake for his first Winter despite everyone’s warnings. He seeks a risky job hoping to secure better benefits, high quality hibernation meds and high caloric foods. But his first day on the job at WinterConsul is far from dangerous because it begins with the longest break he could be afforded, a four weeklong nap. His superiors are not surprised to find him snoozing right through his alarm because seasonal hibernation is a hard habit to break.
After Charlie’s extended day off, it is not long before the deputized few of the Winter Consulate, initiate Charlie into what is considered the hardest job on Earth, surviving Winter. The new Consulate are sworn in to protect all the drug induced hibernators around the Earth, but more than anything they bear witness to the chaos of nature. Day two, but really day twenty-nine, launches this fast paced story with wind gales turning over vehicles, frostbite, nuclear power meltdowns, and a few nightwalkers. Each chapter packs in plot twists and interesting characters preventing readers from experiencing any seasonal doldrums.
Winter takes on a new meaning in Early Riser due to the author’s artistry. Fforde appears comfortable in his own genre of fantasy style fiction where he liberally reassigns meaning to words, creates new cultural cues, and bends natural laws. All with his typical humor, irony, and sarcasm dusted on top. His writing affords readers space to question the tough reality of our possible future. And in traditional Western European style, Fforde is a Scottish writer, hyperbole stretches the what if boundaries laughably far.
While the themes of the book are not buried too deep in the snow, I do not believe Fforde set out to write about society, climate change, bureaucracy, or capitalistic pharmaceutical companies. It is quite possible he woke up from a bizarre and wildly entertaining dream, thought how fun, and wrote down the details. We can recognize though, in our fabric, moral and ethics are woven in. And from Fforde’s playful vision arose this unique struggle of right and wrong.
Good stories work well to disarm us. I would much rather start a conversation with someone about Earth care and climate change after our defenses were knocked over by Fforde’s humor, than after witnessing a scathing debate by slandering politicians. Climate change is no joke but adjusting our approach can be enjoyable and bring us together.
When you pick up your copy, read this story at face value. It is weird and requires attention to detail. Yet it is meant to be entertaining first. Suspend any purpose or need or belief for a while to have some fun.
This novel is buy and keep on your bookshelf quality. I plan to have this book around for house guests, to read something quirky and comedic while visiting. There are many memorable chapters I would reread for a quick afternoon delight. And keeping a copy around makes lovable Charlie Worthington available to loan out to a new reader who has not heard a good story in a long time.
Bust open your windows before the cold arrives. Lap up the beautiful sunshine paired with a happy book. Rise up to find a happy ending to climate change and bad politics and corruption; because in the end, with a little help, the hero can win.
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