Early Riser by Jasper Fforde (Hodder, London, 2018)
Jasper Fforde creates parallel worlds to ours that seem insane to start with and get even insaner as you whizz through. This book is set in mid-Wales, in a future when the winters are so cold that 99% of the population are required to hibernate. Our hero gets the job of monitoring the sleeping masses but there are some chilling challenges for him to face.
The joy of this book is its layers which are often light and then very dark, both funny and scary and finally absurd yet very real. The local authorities are easily recognisable in being lazy, incompetent or corrupt and often a heady mixture of all three. The local setting as a Wintry Wild West, zombie-filled, mid-Wales Dystopia with the addition of shared nightmares is perfect.
The town name of Talgarth needs to be celebrated, the hero, Charlie Worthing, like Thursday Next, is extremely likeable and his interactions with the rich cast – who include people who have really lived and mythical monsters – both charmed and alarmed me but generally made me laugh.
People always ask us – how would you define Welsh literature, both in the past and now. I think the Welsh strengths may not just be in creating gritty urban/bleak hillside realism but something altogether more magical and totally absurd. This book ticks all those red dragon boxes.