Jasper Fforde


"Thursday Next: First Among Sequels"

(reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky AUG 9, 2007)

“The book may be the delivery medium but what we’re actually peddling here is Story.  Humans like stories.  Humans need stories.  Stories are good.  Stories work.  Story clarifies and captures the essence of the human spirit. Story, in all of its forms—of life, of love, of knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind….  I say we place our faith in good stories well told.”

The brilliant Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next—First Among Sequels is the latest zany installment in a highly original and imaginative series.  Fforde’s intrepid fifty-two year old heroine is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  She is still madly in love with her writer husband, Landen Parke-Laine (who, fortunately, is fully restored after his two-year eradication by the fearsome Goliath Corporation) and their three children, one of whom may not really exist.  The oldest, Friday, is sixteen, and he has turned out to be something of a slug who grunts, plays in a heavy metal band, and sleeps well into the day. 

Although Thursday pretends that she spends her time peddling and installing floor coverings for Acme Carpets, she is actually still very much involved in the Special Operations Network, working unofficially and under cover.  She has never broken her strong ties to Jurisfiction, the policing agency within books, a job which earns her no money and is dangerous to boot.  However, Thursday loves stories and she cannot resist using her considerable skills to help “maintain the continuity of the narrative within the pages of all the books ever written.” Using her trusty Travelbook, she jumps into and out of the world of the printed word to hunt down malefactors.

Strange things have been happening lately.  Thursday has a surreal conversation with her Uncle Mycroft, a brilliant inventor who has been dead for six years.  He has no idea why he has reappeared as a ghost, but Thursday suspects that he has some unfinished business that involves her.  Next, Thursday has to cope with two clones of herself who are cadets in training:  one, Thursday5, is a touchy-feely version who eats natural foods, believes in peace and love, and is so timid and nerdy that she is bound to get herself killed in short order.  The other is a foul-mouthed, nasty, gun-toting version named Thursday 1-4, who is ruthless, violent, and intent on eradicating Thursday Next and taking her place.  Looming over everyone in Jurisfiction is the specter of the dropping Outlander Reading Index.  It seems that people in the real world (the Outland) no longer enjoy stories as they once did and the Bookworld is in danger of imminent collapse.  This would be an incalculable loss for humankind.

First Among Sequels is filled with Jasper Fforde’s trademark wit and innumerable puns.  He gleefully takes potshots at reality television, trendy and annoying fads, inefficient bureaucrats, lying politicians, and many more worthy targets.  Fforde’s narrative ranges from philosophical speculation about literature and the nature of time to mind-bending flights of fancy and lowbrow scenes of slapstick and mayhem.  There are even a few touching romantic interludes thrown in for a bit of variety.  The plot is so complex that it defies description.  Suffice it to say that Fforde’s books are as challenging as they are entertaining and satirical.  Consider yourself lucky if you don’t get a headache as you try to keep track of the many seemingly unrelated threads that somehow all tie together in the end.  The patient reader will be exhilarated and rewarded, since First Among Sequels is a treat for literature lovers with a wacky sense of fun.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 77 reviews

 

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"Something Rotten"

(reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky SEP 5, 2005)

“Things are just so much weirder than we can know.”

Jasper Fforde's unique brand of inspired insanity makes Something Rotten a welcome addition to his enormously entertaining and often hilarious Thursday Next series. Thursday is the head of Jurisfiction, the policing agency that "safeguards the stability of the written word" in literature. However, she is tiring of her hectic, stressful, and often dangerous job and she needs a break. Thursday takes her two-year-old son, Friday, and decides to head for the Outland. She returns to her home town of Swindon, England, determined to bring back her "eradicated" husband, Landen Parke-Lane.

Thursday's return home, unfortunately, brings a new set of problems to plague this beleaguered heroine. She is saddled with Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, who is unhappy with the indecisive manner in which he has been portrayed by actors. In addition, the Council of Genres wants Thursday to do something about the dictatorial and ruthless Yorrick Kaine, an escaped fictionaut who is planning to dominate the world. To make matters worse, a mysterious and deadly assassin is out to get Thursday, and she has to watch her back constantly.

Something Rotten
is filled with puns, literary allusions, slapstick, dizzying time travel, ribald humor, naughty words, brilliant satire, and non-stop action. Often, the wacky plot makes little sense, and the many characters enter and exit so often that the unprepared reader may be left with a migraine. However, Fforde rewards the patient reader in many ways. The author entertains us with his large cast of colorful and varied characters. Thursday Next is an appealing heroine who is smart, courageous, warmhearted, determined, and resourceful. Melanie Bradshaw, the gorilla wife of Commander Bradshaw, provides Friday with much-needed child care in a pinch. Yorrick Kaine is Thursday's fearsome and frightening opponent, and his backers, the men behind the colossal Goliath Corporation, represent all of those reprehensible conglomerates that gleefully and heartlessly trample on human rights. Lady Emma Hamilton is a boarder who stays with Thursday's mom, and she proves to be a handful. Emma is a lush who has the hots for Hamlet. Colonel Next is Thursday's dad, and he travels through time, meeting up with and helping his daughter now and then. It is no accident that several characters from Alice in Wonderland also make key appearances in this whimsical and imaginative novel.

Thursday's adventures are funny, poignant, and sometimes dazzling in their complexity. There is even a no-holds-barred "SuperHoop" croquet match that is as wild and unpredictable as the Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter novels. Something Rotten may confuse devotees of linear literature. However, if you like a creative and daring author who loves wordplay, creates timebending and mindbending escapades, and who inserts timely and pointed social commentary into his narrative, then you will find Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten as delightful as I did.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 72 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Something Rotten at Penguin Group

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"The Well of Lost Plots "

(reviewed by Josh Aterovis MAY 15, 2004)

Author Jasper Fforde continues to prove himself as one of the more creative, clever and original authors of our time with his third book in the Thursday Next series, The Well of Lost Plots. At the end of the last book, Thursday had escaped from the evil corporation Goliath by entering the Book World, the secret universe that exists inside books where fictional characters are more real than the Outsiders who read about them. She is hiding out in the Character Exchange Program, living inside a rather awful, unpublished detective novel. She is hoping to simply have her baby and remember her non-existent husband. (He was eradicated by Goliath.)

Things seldom work out as Thursday plans, however, and she soon finds herself being drawn out of her restful existence. Things start to turn when she is asked by the characters in her book to help them save their novel from being scrapped for salvage. Then there’s the dangerous world of Jurisfiction agents. She is still apprenticed to Miss Havisham, of Dickens fame, and her final exam looms. Before she can become a full agent, several other agents are murdered in a ghastly fashion, and it seems that only Thursday and Miss Havisham are willing to seek the truth. Soon, they find that they are targets as well. Will they be able to solve the murders before they end up victims? Will Thursday be able to save the book she has come to call home? And what about those cryptic prophecies from the three witches? As Thursday tries to answer those questions—and more—she journeys from book to book, everything from Sense and Sensibility to Wuthering Heights to Alice in Wonderland. In the end, though, all she really wants is to return to the real world with her life, baby, and husband...and her memory.

As in his first two books, Fforde maintains a brilliantly witty tone throughout the whole story. I laughed out loud so many times I lost count. The Well of Lost Plots feels less structured than his earlier books, and actually reads more like a series of short stories that are loosely connected at best. While it’s not as well-plotted as The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, it is still a deliciously fun read, especially for fans of literature. He sprinkles his narrative with so many inside jokes that I’m sure I only caught a small fraction. He also offers up a sharp satire of the publishing world with the Grand Text Central’s proposed upgrade to the suspicious UltraWord™, a system that promises to be “the ultimate reading experience” but may be something less than advertised. Jasper Fforde has proven himself once again to be a truly original fantasy writer.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 785 reviews

 

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"Lost in a Good Book"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple APR 20, 2003)

"They always say the first time you save the world is the hardest-personally, I have always found it tricky…"

Thursday Next, a member of the Literary Detective Division of Special Operations in England, lives in a looking-glass universe in which all the "givens" of our world are turned upside down. The Crimean War has just ended after 150 years, and England has given Kent to the Russians as war reparations. Thursday has a pet dodo, which she has cloned from genetic material she purchased in a kit, and Neanderthals have been reintroduced to the world, where they suffer as an underclass. Her grandmother hides indoors when the wooly mammoths begin their migrations, and she cannot die until she has read the ten worst books in the world. Her father, a former ChronoGuard, travels through time and can alter both the past and the present, and her uncle Mycroft has invented a Prose Portal, which allows people from the "real" world to travel inside books, an invention that the evil Goliath Corporation covets.

Thursday has just solved a difficult case, The Eyre Affair, in which she has eradicated Acheron Hades, preventing him from getting inside the manuscript of Jane Eyre and killing off some of the characters. In the process of saving literature and giving Jane Eyre a better conclusion, she has also trapped the unscrupulous Jack Schitt of the Goliath Corporation inside Poe's "The Raven." The toast of the town, Thursday is a heroine -- and a new bride.

In this sequel to The Eyre Affair, the Goliath Corporation teaches Thursday a lesson, eradicating her husband, Landen Parke-Laine, by manipulating time so that he dies in an accident when he is a baby. Thursday, who has just found out that she is pregnant, now finds that she does not know who the baby's father is -- because Landen never existed after the age of two! Blackmailed by Goliath, she must free Jack Schitt from "The Raven" if she ever wants to see Landen again.

In an effort to solve her dilemma, she becomes an apprentice to Miss Havisham, the bride left at the altar in Dickens's Great Expectations, a long-time employee of Jurisfiction, which has a library of original copies of all the books which have ever been written or ever will be written, and where The Cheshire Cat, now known as The Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat, because of changes in geopolitical boundaries, is the head librarian. Miss Havisham will help Thursday to cross into literature without the Prose Portal and perhaps figure out a way to retrieve Landen.

Like the first book, Lost in a Good Book is the wackiest of pleasures, with off-the-wall characters, some of them from books many of us have read in school, performing outrageous deeds in which none of the "rules" of our universe apply. The plot and intrigue gain in complexity with the discovery of Cardenio, an unknown play by William Shakespeare, as the LiteraTecs try to determine whether it is real or fake and decide what will become of it. Not incidentally, a pink slime threatens the very existence of life on earth unless Thursday can prevent its spread. The action here is episodic and the subplots do not mesh effectively, but each change of scene and subplot sets up opportunities for Fforde to show off his prodigious literary knowledge and wacky humor. The reader becomes caught up in the hullabaloo, and this reader, at least, found that the novel was so much fun that weaknesses, such as a looseness of plot and a lack of dramatic tension could be excused. Characters such as Commander Braxton Hicks, Akrid Snell, Chalk and Cheese, Dedman and Walken, Millon de Floss, Spike Stoker (the vampire containment expert), and Alf Weddershaine and Sarah Nara, are as much a part of the fun as the outrageous puns, word play, and satire.

Readers who have not read The Eyre Affair may want to start with that novel first. Most of the characters here have already appeared in that novel, and Fforde's recap of the characters and action in that novel may be confusing to new readers who must also keep track of the new events in this novel. Since the reader is also trying to figure out "the rules" of this strange, alternative universe, that can be a daunting challenge. Still, the novel is so full of energy and high humor that the reader cannot help but become caught up in the excitement. The literary alternative universe of Thursday Next offers loads of beguiling possibilities to keep even the most jaded reader amused, and Fforde is well on his way to creating a heroine and a series which will gain him legions of fans.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 119 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Lost in a Good Book at Penguin Group



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Thursday Next Series:

Nursery Crimes:

Colors Trilogy:

The Dragonslayer Series:

  • The Last Dragonslayer (2010 UK; October 2012 US)
  • The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011 UK; 2013 US)
  • The Return of Shandar (2012 UK; 2014 US)

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Jasper FfordeJasper Fforde worked in the film industry working on such major feature films as Quills, Goldeneye, Entrapment and the Mask of Zorro for twenty years. He left the film industry to pursue another lifelong dream: to be a novelist. He lives and writes in Wales.

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