I’m a big fan of Jasper Fforde’s particular brand of imagination. I like puns (the worse the better), footnotes and over-the-top weirdness and his books certainly fit the bill for me (although Rob tried them and couldn’t ‘get it’). Like most people I started with the Thursday Next books – a series about a woman who can jump between the real world (or rather, real-ish – this is Jasper Fforde after all…) and the world of fiction – and then moved on to the Nursery Crimes series. Set wholly in the world of fiction these books answers burning questions: who killed Humpty Dumpty? was Goldilocks guilty? was the Gingerbread Man a cake or a biscuit…? I haven’t yet read his children’s series, the Last Dragonslayer, but I also really enjoyed a book he wrote in a completely different world, one where Something Happened and people now see colour in a totally different way. These books were all great and, like many people, I have been eagerly awaiting Thursday Next book 8, Shades of Grey 2 or even a new Nursery Crime (I definitely have questions about Incy-Wincy Spider…) but, it seems, the wait continues. Until that happy day, however, we do have a new Fforde to keep us amused.
Early Riser is set in Wales, but not Wales as we know it. For a start Fforde has a thing about Wales – he obviously loves it , I believe he lives there, but he loves to mess with it. In the Thursday Next series Wales is a Socialist Republic; in this book it is a wild country, possibly filled with creatures from myth and folklore, but is part of a world where the vast majority of mankind hibernates through long and brutal winters. The main character is Charlie Worthing, an orphan who decides that taking a job as a Winter Consul – one of the few who don’t hibernate but protect the sleepers from Villains, Nightwalkers and WinterVolk – is better than continuing to live as an Assistant House Manager in St Granata’s Pooled Parentage Station. Of course, he was expecting to spend his first winter awake safely behind a desk, learning the role, rather than being trapped in the notorious Sector Twelve. Any amount of paperwork is better than having to deal with Aurora, the head of security at the HiberTech research facility, or her twin sister Toccata, marauding Villains (Upper-Class English, using theft and pillage to maintain their traditional lifestyle – always on the lookout for stamp collections and potential ‘servants’) and deadly viral dreams…
This may not be TN8 or SoG2 but it is still a wild and wonderful ride through Jasper Fforde’s fertile imagination. I once saw him speak about his work and he said that all his books start with a ‘what if….’ question popping into his brain – his books seem to prove that his brain produces some very entertaining (if slightly odd) ‘what ifs’. Tonight I’m off to see him again – maybe we’ll find out when the books we are waiting for coming – but I hope the audience also joins me in congratulating him on another entertaining story.