Thursday Next has fallen on hard times now that Special Ops,
particularly her Literary Crimes Division, has been dismantled and
shelved. She is constantly pestered by fans of the unauthorized
novels of her adventures. Her 16-year-old son, Friday, is a
shiftless layabout who seems determined to wallow in a pool of
morose morbidity. Her pet dodo is having problems. She has been
relegated to the menial task of installing carpets to make ends
meet. And she has also resorted to selling black market
At least that's what she'd like everyone to believe.
Instead, Acme Carpets is nothing more than a front for the
underground continuation of Special Ops. The Literary Crimes
Division, however, has not been seeing any work. People just don't
read anymore. The world at large is more interested in movies,
video games, the Internet and reality television. As the reading
interest falls, England has found itself in the grip of a growing
Stupidity Surplus. Through it all, she has been able to keep her
secret under wraps.
That all changes when a killer begins to target famous literary
giants. Sherlock Holmes is murdered and Miss Marple is likewise
slain. And the assailant also sets his sights on Thursday. Or is he
targeting alternate Thursdays who exist in the Bookworld? As the
dreaded Goliath Corporation prepares for mass book tourism,
allowing visitors to enter and tour the worlds of Jane Austen,
Thursday has to team up with the one person she really can't stand
in order to prevent calamitous results: her book self.
Jasper Fforde once again hits a home run with FIRST AMONG SEQUELS.
The fifth book in this series can stand proudly on its own, but it
does provide a much better experience if you've gone through
Thursday's previous trials and tribulations with her. Like his
others in the line, this installment is a completely satisfying and
page-turning read, one you feel compelled to continue even as the
hours drift by.
It's not just his sense of humor, the fun plot, or the intriguing
characters that pull you along. It's the very thought that books
are valuable and important, and that they are being besieged in the
better-faster-quicker generation by all forms of entertainment that
gratify now-now-now. This is a menace that Fforde seems to
understand and believe is very real.
"In these days of junk TV, short attention spans and easy-to-digest
sound bites, it seemed that the book, the noble device to which
both Bowden and I had devoted much of our lives, was being
marginalized into just another human storytelling experience also
ran..." So laments Thursday, echoing a concern of her world that is
also one much discussed here in ours.
"Besides, no one's reading books much anymore, so I'm fairly
redundant," she confesses.
With this outstanding piece of work, it would be an absolute
travesty if that were true. Fforde once again proves that books are
valuable entertainment that need not go the way of the dodo.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 21, 2011