CBRBingo – Sportsball and People
As I read Ivon, I couldn’t help thinking that this would be a much better book if Jasper Fforde had written it. Fforde is a master of taking a crazy premise and populating it with such skillfully drawn living breathing humans that the setting becomes real. This is Aylwin’s first novel, and he isn’t there yet.
In the world of Ivon, sport is everything. Set in our future, after a series of pandemics that killed off all but the fittest, almost all of humanity lives in the Perpetual Era where society, the economy and international relations are organised around sporting contests. Citizens are stratified by sporting ability, highly specialised in a subset of skills of a particular sport, and are placed in stasis at the end of their allotted lifespan. A few holdout areas, including Wales, still live in the Lapsed Era, where sport means less, but also more. “Fun, style and excellence.”
Dusty is an elite cricketer, recently decommissioned from playing for London and having a difficult adjustment. He secretly harbours pride in his accomplishments, which rightly belong to the collective rather than the individual. As a member of the elite class he is allowed to travel to Wales, and while there he encounters Ricky and Dee, former fellow elite cricketers exiled to Wales, and their son Ivon, a sporting prodigy. Watching sport in Wales shakes Dusty to the core.
Hearing about a society built on sport has a similar impact on Ivon, who is hungry for a new challenge. So he returns to London with Dusty, and experiences a Brave New World type of culture clash, the savage from the reservation whose skills are an invaluable asset, but who can only be made to fit by giving up everything that he values.
Early Riser is a bigger leap away from our reality. Humanity hibernates. Humanity has always hibernated. Human society is and always has been organised around the imperative to survive the bleakness of winter. Only the Consuls stay awake to protect the sleepers from the nightwalkers, villains and wintervolk.
Charlie Worthing is a novice Consul. Only one third of first-timers see the Spring, but Charlie’s odds lengthen dramatically when he is catapulted by a series of hilariously unfortunate events into a dangerous assignment. Stuck in remote Sector 12 in central Wales after Slumberdown, he is tasked with investigating a viral dream that causes paranoia and murderous psychosis, and becomes entangled in the machinations of the RealSleep protest movement and the voracious HiberTech corporation.
Charlie’s struggle to stay alive, and to find out what the hell is going on in Sector 12, is captivating. As are the misfits he encounters, awake out of season for a range of sanctioned and unsanctioned reasons, pulling Charlie in different directions. “The Winter isn’t a season. It’s a calling.”
I found myself questioning the building blocks of Ivon’s society. There is no way that tens of thousands of people pumping away in a stadium for a few hours plus even the most energetic bouts of shagging between the fittest of people could power the energy needs of a high tech society. And there was little beneath the surface of the premise, or the characters. But Fforde’s world, slumbering through a winter haunted by strange creatures and stranger people, protected by intrepid Consuls, corporations looking for new ways to cash in, that I could believe.