If the recent heatwave has left you feeling hot and bothered, why not slip in to something cool and comfortable? The latest novel by best-selling author Jasper Fforde should fit the bill.

There’s been a bit of a wait for the cult novelist’s latest book – his first since 2014, having previously brought out pretty much one a year for more than a decade.

But it’s been worth the wait.

Set in an alternative reality where 99.9 per cent of the population hibernates for four months every year, we follow the misadventures of some of the 0.1 per cent. Our hero is Charlie Worthing – aka Wonky, due to his less than perfect physiognomy – who is investigating an outbreak of viral dreams as a novice Winter Consul, responsible for ensuring the safe passage of the sleeping masses.

They are not the only ones still awake – there are also the winter nomads (womads), the possibly mythical WinterVolk, the eunuch porters and other workers and the wonderfully drawn Villains, descendants of the English upper classes, vanquished in the Class Wars of the 19th century and living a lawless life in mid-Wales.

Then there are the cannibalistic nightwalkers – a product of Morphenox. Available only to the rich and privileged, the drug ensures the survival rate for the four months’ of slumber is greatly improved. However one in 2000 users end up in a zombie-like state, fit only for mindless repetitive jobs or having their organs harvested.

For those who don’t know Fforde’s work, it should perhaps be explained that despite myriad unpleasant deaths – this book is darker than his previous novels – there are many laughs and wry smiles to be had from his genre-merging writing – a mad, clever, mix of fantasy, satire, parody and thriller.

Well worth staying awake for.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, Hodder & Stoughton, £20 hardback

Jasper Fforde will be at Waterstones, Oxford, on Friday August 3. Tickets are £5 or £3 Waterstones card holders. See waterstones.com/events for details.