Sunday, March 23, 2008

Book Review: Thursday Next, First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

(Disclaimer: I also published this review at the Spring Reading Challenge. My apologies for the redundancy, but as I've said before, I don't have that many ideas that I can afford to waste one simply because I've used it elsewhere.)

I Ffinally Ffinished a book! Well, actually, I’ve ffinished lots of books, but I meant since the beginning of the Spring Reading Challenge.

It was pretty good.
The end.

Oh, I guess I'm supposed to write more than that. Okay.

This is a somewhat difficult book to describe to someone not ffamiliar with Fforde's work. Thursday Next is the name of the protagonist (she has a son, Ffriday and two daughters, Tuesday and Jenny.) It's the ffifth book in the Thursday Next series. The books take place in an England kind of like ours, but not quite. Ffor example, in Thursday Next's England, cheese is a controlled substance, smuggled in to the country by the cheese mafia through The People's Republic of Wales. The most popular contact sport in the nation is croquet and when the government insists on behaving rationally, making long range plans based on common sense, the unused stupidity accumulates, creating a dangerous stupidity surplus. In the ffirst ffour books in the series, Ms. Next works as a Literary Detective for Spec Ops-27, the Literary Division. Spec Ops consists of all the police operations that are too dangerous or too unusual for the regular police department.

Now, it gets a little weirder than that. In addition to being a Spec Ops agent, Thursday Next is also a Jurisfiction Agent. Jurisfiction is the agency within ffiction whose job it is to maintain the structural integrity of ffiction. You see, Thursday Next can enter ffiction (a.k.a. the Bookworld, something she discovers in her ffirst adventure, The Eyre Affair.) Within the Bookworld she can interact with ffictional characters, some of whom are also Jurisfiction agents. In ffact, she is the only "outlander" (person ffrom the real world) in Jurisfiction. Occasionally, a ffictional character will escape the Bookworld and enter the Outland, which is very much discouraged. During the course of the series Thursday has made a number of enemies, including The Goliath Corporation™ (Ffrom the Cradle to the Grave™) and a ffictional minotaur code-named Mr. Johnson, among others. Very ffew Outlanders know of the existence of the Bookworld, although The Goliath Corporation™ (Ffor All You'll Ever Need™) knows of its existence and wants to get their grubby paws in it.

Ffirst Among Sequels begins 14 years after the end of the last book, Something Rotten. Almost all divisions of Spec Ops have been officially dissolved, including the Literary Division. Thursday is now employed by ACME Floor Coverings which, of course, is a ffront ffor her continued work as a now clandestine Spec Ops agent, which in turn, is a ffront for her even more clandestine work as a Jurisfiction agent. The Bookworld is concerned about ffalling Read Rates in the Outland. They have also charged her with the task of training the ffictional Thursday Next to be a Jurisfiction Agent. In the Outland, Spec Ops is dealing with the end of time and The Goliath Corpoaration™ (Solving Evolution's Problems™) is attempting to create a "Short Now" in order to ffurther their plans ffor world domination. In addition, Thursday's teenaged son, Ffriday, would rather sleep in than join Spec Ops-12 (Office ffor Special Temporal Stability, The ChronoGuard. Recruitment drive now on due to industrial action expected in ffifteen years ago) which, if he ffails do to, will have disastrous repercussions in the past, present and ffuture. Oh, yes, she is also trying to keep all her activity secret ffrom her husband, Landen. As you may surmise, Thursdays hands are ffairly ffull.

So, confused? If you read the Thursday Next series ffrom the beginning, it all makes some kind of sense. It might even make sense if you start with the ffifth book. He makes ffrequent thinly veiled references to "real world" events; ffor instance, in the Bookworld, the genres of Ffeminist Ffiction and Religious Ffiction are plotting a preemptive strike against the Racy Novel genre, who they claim is developing a "dirty bomb" which would spread suggestive text throughout any genre in which it is detonated. Fforde writes very well (nothing is quite as distracting to me when reading a book as being conscious of the writer's lack of skill) and I've enjoyed reading all of them, including Ffirst Among Sequels, but they aren't books that have made me ffeel like ignoring everything else in life until I ffinish them. I never did ffigure out why it's called Ffirst Among Sequels other than it sounds sort of clever. In ffact, that's one of my few criticisms of Jasper Ffordes books. Sometimes it seems like he's trying just a wee bit too hard to be clever.

All of Fforde's books are what he calls (I think) "enhanced." If you go to his website you ffind everything ffrom corrections to special ffeatures. I've checked out the website, but I'd rather just read the book. The book stands on its own and all the web stuff, while kind of ffun, is definitely not required to enjoy the books. And don't worry, you won't have to deal with all ffs being unnecessarily doubled when you read his books. I was just having a little ffun.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Double posting! I call shenanigans on you! :)

Ed said...

I didn't do it! Suzy did it first! She made me do it! The dog ate it!

Cinderbelle said...

What's the name of the first Jasper Fforde book, daddy? Is "The Eyre Effect" first in his books or just the first Thursday Next book?

Ed said...

The Eyre Affair is the first book in the Thursday Next series and I believe it is also his first book.