Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

early riser .jpgTitle: Early Riser

Author: Jasper Fforde

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Adventure/Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel – full of the imagination, wit and intelligence that has made Fforde a Number One bestseller.

The new standalone novel from Number 1 bestselling author Jasper Fforde. 

Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.

Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder.

Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…

~*~

It has been many years since a Jasper Fforde novel has been released, and of all his books, my two favourite series are the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes books – both of which I hope get updates soon, so I can find out what happens to my favourite characters. In Early Riser, the first stand-alone novel by Fforde, which is filled with the same satire, the same references to history, popular culture, entertainment and reading, as the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series his readers have come to know and love. Yet this is a different world to that of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, set in another alternate United Kingdom, this time in Wales, where humans spend the entire winter hibernating – and where a select few have volunteered to stay awake through winter to ensure everyone makes it through.

Charlie Worthing is one such volunteer. It is his first Winter awake, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is an outbreak of viral dreams that start to kill people, and Charlie must work with the Winter Consul, and contend with the Wintervolk and those infecting the dreams of the hibernating folk and killing them.

This is a sort of dystopian, alternate universe that is quintessentially British, and charmingly so, with the presence of After Eights, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a tongue-in-cheek humour that I have come to expect and love in Fforde’s works. It is a humour that knowing some of the references, such as his cheeky nods to The Sound of Music, that knowing where they are from helps you appreciate them all the more, and it is so typically Fforde – he manages to get the balance of respect and satire just right, and it suits the book and the character of Charlie so well -one wonders if Charlie has ever crossed paths with the Nursery Crime Division and Thursday Next – books I must read again, and am hoping for continuations of.

The cruelty of Charlie’s first Winter is evident in how the Consul treats him, in the hints at hazing and how different departments perform this – where one might be akin to pranks and drills, Charlie’s hazing is said to be more like making tea and doing laundry – that is, until he is given a promotion to take on heavier duties and investigations into the dream deaths. Fforde cleverly shows how this happens but using subversive and discreet language – nothing is obviously stated, and Charlie is constantly warned about the consequences of falling asleep. Part mystery as well as satire as Charlie investigates what happens, he soon finds himself uncovering secrets about people he thought he knew and finding out things he never thought he would.

Fforde manages to capture something unique about the world, about history and literature, and British culture that is entertaining, informative and amusing. He uses the punching up rule of humour, mixed in with equal delectable dollops of parody and satire to complement the seemingly insane and odd mystery that makes sense in the dystopian alternate universe of Wales that Fforde has created for Charlie to live in, with an ending that is both conclusive and open enough for readers to imagine what happens next. It is a novel that will appeal to Fforde fans and hopefully those who appreciate a tongue in cheek humour and nods to things we’ve all encountered or heard of at some stage, which makes the reading experience richer and more enticing when you can understand these references.

Jasper’s first novel in about four years, Early Riser is the beginning of what will hopefully be a barrage of new books, and updates on our favourite characters and stories. I enjoyed being back in the world of Jasper Fforde and can’t wait for his next offering – which I hope will be soon. In the meantime, I plan to re-read the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, that latter of which only has two books at this stage.

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Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups with text by Sophie Hamley

five go down under.jpgTitle: Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups)

Author: Sophie Hamley

Genre: Humour, Parody

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 106

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The Famous Five have gone on their greatest adventure yet – a trip Down Under to Oz for some gap year fun.

Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy head Down Under for some relaxing holiday fun. But will it be the adventure they had hoped for?

Setting up camp in Bondi they soon meet the Sydney Six, a couple of guitar-strumming Kiwis and a rogue South African and find themselves in the thick of Sydney’s real estate perils and the attempts of their omnipresent cousin Rupert Kirrin to buy up the local media.

But when the sun, surf and bluebottles have their revenge and things don’t quite go to plan, it’s time to head for the country for a spot of sheep-shearing and quad-bike riding. Will the country be kinder to them or will their close calls with the Australian wildlife have them heading back to the city before you can say decaff soy latte?

~*~

In Five Go Down Under, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy decide to take a year off of work and the cold of England, and travel to warmer climates. They choose Australia, warm enough year around and far enough away to warrant a long trip, rather than heading to the usual destinations in Spain they’re used to. Of course, nothing will prepare them for the heat, the killer wildlife and the strange linguistic differences and slang that will greet them upon their arrival in Australia. And what will they make of their neighbours in Bondi, the trendy beach suburb of Sydney famous with tourists from all over the world?

In Australia, the Famous Five will encounter ferries, and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sheep shearing and the harsh sun that burns without prejudice. They encounter things they never thought they would, and find that all their dreams of life in Sydney might not be quite what they thought it would be, as they try to navigate the culture that in some ways is similar yet so different from what they are used to. In a madcap series of events, they will come to find that the Australia that the Sydney Six are determined to show them is not quite the Australia they imagined, and that no country is immune to the evils of the world. As laid-back as the Australians they meet might be, the Five soon come to realise this only the surface – and their journey in Australia has just begun as they seek work during their gap year.

aww2017-badgeUsing Enid Blyton’s popular characters, Australian author Sophie Hamley has written a text that beautifully reproduces the original style and characters, whilst balancing this with new characteristics they displays as adults, and contrasts this with the current generation and the Australian way of speaking. She seamlessly weaves in references to current diet trends and the stereotypical Australians, as well as references to politics and popular culture – in true Australian satirical style, poking fun at the things about our country that need to be laughed about. Sophie Hamley’s text is accompanied by illustrations originals by Eileen Soper, who illustrated other editions of the original Famous Five stories, which gives a sense of character and nostalgia to the texts.

Using tongue-in-cheek humour, Sophie Hamley’s text is uniquely Australian whilst keeping the tone of the original stories intact, if not somewhat exaggerated for comedic impact. The Famous Five For Grown-Ups Series brings the beloved childhood characters back to life for adults, and into an unknown world, where poking fun at current trends and cultural phenomena all play a part in creating a fun read.

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