Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

I think I'll always have a soft spot in me for Thursday Next. When I picked up The Eyre Affair, I couldn't stop grinning as I read. And it was nothing if not way outside my usual genre of read.  Since then, I've been happily following along with the series at a leisurely pace, picking the subsequent books up when I wanted an escape into puns and word play, satire and literary creativity. And this one had all of that but somehow it fell a little short of the previous books. Maybe it was because there were so many disparate threads and so much reliance on the previous books that this one was somehow slightly less entertaining. And yet, because it was Thursday Next and the always creative Jasper Fforde, it was still a decent read and I will continue to look forward to the next Next.

In this installment of the series, it's been 14 years since the previous book and much has changed in Thursday's life. She and Landon are married and have children, including a sullen, slouchy teenaged son named Friday who is causing Thursday much grief and stress. He is not following the plan of his life as it is supposed to unfold and if he doesn't do as his future indicates, the Looming End of Time could, in fact, arrive. In addition to her worries about Friday's directionlessness, Thursday is having to live a double life. SpecOps was disbanded and so her job as a literary detective has morphed instead into a job as a carpet installer for Acme Carpets. Or this is what she's told Landon. While she does go on the occasional carpet installation job, she is still secretly policing the literary world and when it becomes clear that a serial killer is on the loose and knocking off famous characters all over Book World, she must get to the bottom of it. And Book World itself has gotten more complex now that there are the four previous Thursday Next novels as well, meaning there's the fictional Thursday Next who is the heroine of this novel and there are meta-fiction Thursdays from her previous novels and apprenticed to this Thursday in Book World. Add to all of this chaos the fact that the real world is facing a stupidity surplus, that reading rates are declining and there's talk of turning some classics into reality tv shows, tarted up and with more spectacular conflicts than as written to entice viewing audiences, there's a black market for illegal and highly dangerous cheese, and Goliath is back to their old tricks, wanting to access and monetize travel into the Book World and it's obvious that there's more than enough for the tangled and typically chaotic world of Thursday Next.

Although all of the unrelated plot threads do start to twist together, this is still a bit exhausting, perhaps because other characters have taken on large portions of the action and importance. Even minor characters from previous novels come back for cameos here, adding just that small bit too much to the otherwise genial mess and clutter. This definitely requires knowledge of the previous books since nothing is as it seems and the back story helps make things more understandable for the reader. Thursday is still the same wonderfully quirky, smart, kick-butt literary detective she's always been--and now she's even the Last Bastion of Common Sense (LBOCS) on the Council of Genres in Book World--and I did enjoy dipping back into her world again but I hope the next one is a little less mechanics driven and a little heavier on the literary fun.

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