Early Riser (novel)

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Early Riser
Early Riser cover (UK Edition).jpg
Early Riser (UK 2018 Edition)

AuthorJasper Fforde
Cover artistRobert Frank Hunter
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genrealternate history, fantasy, science fiction, satire
PublisherHodder & Stoughton (UK)
Viking Press (US)
Published2 August 2018 (UK)
12 February 2019 (US)
Media typePrint (hardcover)

Early Riser (2018) is a standalone alternate history satire novel of novelist Jasper Fforde.[1][2] The novel is notable because Fforde never uses a gender descriptive pronoun for the protagonist Charlie Worthing, referring to Charlie variously as they/them, I/me, and as simply 'Charlie'.


The story takes place in an alternate version of the United Kingdom, where the Ice Age continues and most of the human population hibernates in winter. Returning early from hibernation may cause Dead in Sleep from neural collapse, but death during hibernation may also arise from a shortage of fats, low temperature, vermin predation, carbon dioxide build-up, calcitic migration and many other complications. Some people awake with only enough vestigial memory to walk and eat, and became known as "nightwalkers".

As the novel opens, people’s survivability during hibernation has dramatically increased after the introduction of Morphenox, a drug produced by HiberTech, a large and powerful "vertically integrated" corporation. HiberTech also "takes care" of nightwalkers, "redeploying" those who are suitable for performing simple tasks and supervising "transplant potential" of others.

There Winter Consul Service is responsible for the safety of dreaming people. The main protagonist, Charlie Worthing, is a novice and this is their first season as Winter Consul. One of the current issues for the Consul Service is an outbreak of viral dreams that is not treated seriously at first, but unexpectedly leads to serious trouble in which Charlie is personally embroiled.

While Charlie's gender is ambiguous, an ID number/code given by Charlie when entering Hibertech ends with F (Worthing, C, BDA26355F) - the same as Mrs Tiffen (Tiffen, L, HAB21417F) and distinct from Jack Logan, whose ID ends with M.


Early Riser was listed 10th in the New York Times Best-Seller Books Hardcover Fiction on 3 March 2019.[3]

"As Charlie uncovers a conspiracy connected with a viral dream, Fforde keeps the puns and neologisms coming thick and fast while exploring every facet of his novel’s intriguing premise." - James Lovegrove, Financial Times (30 November 2018) [4]

"Early Riser is a zany send-up of all things British and an often hilarious account of Charlie’s stumbling, hare-brained attempts to work out the secret of the authoritarian HiberTech company." - Eric Brown, The Guardian (7 September 2018) [5]

"Early Riser has all of the elements and sensibility that have earned Fforde a sizable and devoted following: wordplay, allusion, a playful exuberance and -- of course -- his signature method of World-Building via Copious and Suggestive Use of Capitalization, often in the service of creating Imaginary Socioeconomic Hierarchies and Related Governmental Agencies. (...) Fforde writes witty, chewy sentences, full of morsels, and delivers them deadpan. (...) It’s not so much that the book is less than the sum of its parts. It’s just that there are so many parts. Early Riser, while never underwritten, can be at times a bit underfelt, the verbal dexterity crowding out the room for emotion." - Charles Yu, The New York Times Book Review (28 February 2019) [6]


  1. ^ "Jasper Fforde returns with new 'rich, dark' novel | The Bookseller". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  2. ^ Alexander, Niall (3 August 2018). "Oh What A Miserable Winter: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde". Tor.com. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Books Best Sellers Hardcover Fiction". New York Times. 3 March 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  4. ^ Lovegrove, James (30 November 2018). "Short review: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  5. ^ Brown, Eric (7 September 2018). "The best recent science fiction novels – review roundup". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  6. ^ Yu, Charles (28 February 2019). "A Brilliantly Funny and Slightly Bonkers New Novel From Jasper Fforde". New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2019.

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