I’m being more kind with this book than my last couple. The chapter length was on the shorter side (this counts for a lot in my world) and while it wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat style thriller, the intrigue was enough to keep me engaged.
In the beginning, the reader is dumped into this bizarre world where humans hibernate and have winter coats and “bulk up” for winter. It takes a long time for all the pieces to come together and get the hang of it, but on the bright side, there aren’t many info dumps.
I loved all the humor. There were a couple parts that had me laughing out loud. The intrigue takes a while to pull the reader in, but otherwise it was a pretty quick and easy read.
It was a little predictable in terms of the whodunnit, but I think there were enough twists and turns added in to the journey to make it feel unpredictable. Thinking back on the plot, there were a couple plot threads that didn’t contribute much to the overall story, but they provided a little comic relief.
If I could change something about it I think I’d make the world building a little clearer. There’s talk about child bearing responsibilities- I would have liked to know more about why this was necessary? Winter is a killer, okay- but how many people are dying that they need to force child bearing duties upon people? I get that there is a higher rate of death among over winterers, but they don’t seem to number very high, and we aren’t given many stats about how many people aren’t surviving hibernation due to starvation (or lack of nutrition storage?). The given stats don’t add up to making this a necessary requirement.
I was also very unclear on the time line. The latest reference I found was to something in 2003, but some references go back to the 19th century. The technology didn’t seem super advanced, but some of it also wasn’t familiar.
This is a really fun book when you view it as a satire. There’s a purveying attitude due to hibernation that people should be fat and lazy and eat incredibly high amounts of junk food. There’s mention of a show called “Albion’s Got Talent” and gossip surrounding it often takes precedence over other, less important scandals. Guns and other weapons are given silly names like “Bambi” and “Thumper”. Then there’s Graer Brylls, ultimate tv-lazy man, and the Gronk. The Gronk being the Gronk may be a coincedence, but as a life-long New Englander and unapologetic Patriots fan, everytime the Gronk was mentioned I was cracking up. Who The Gronk ended up being made the whole joke even funnier.
There’s also the issue with Morphenox and big pharma. I won’t delve too far into the issue, but I do think it’s an important one and I think Fforde delivered it very well. So the satire added to the humor, but in all honesty, it’s the message this book delivers that I loved most.
The other thing I will say is that I think it would have made a fantastic horror novel. The setting was great. Sector 12 was creepy and eerie. The myths and legends about wintervolk added to the horror vibes, but it never went full throttle. Nothing about it is truly scary but it could have been, so it ended up feel like missed potential.
All in all, not a bad read. I might check out other work by Fforde in the future.