It's not easy reading a Jasper Fforde fantasy/mystery/adventure
novel; it's harder still to review one. I don't imagine too
many readers are neutral about this unique and silly
reference-filled series. The more you know about English
literature, the better, I suppose; I always assume I've missed at
least half of the jokes, and even then I'm in constant giggles. In
this case, by page 5, I had already guffawed loudly over a
reference that included one of my favorite lines in modern film.
And I don't guffaw a lot.
In this story, Thursday Next is still dealing with having a new
baby, her son Friday, by Landen Park-Laine who, at this time, does
not exist. That's being worked on, but it's rather disconcerting as
he flits in and out of reality; one moment Thursday is wearing her
wedding ring, and the next moment it's gone. She's back working for
Jurisfiction after hiding out for a time in a fictional universe
and is trying to keep up with the chaos created by bad guy Yorrick
Kaine. While she battles Kaine's schemes to destroy all things
Danish, (it's his way of stirring up trouble and a means of
creating someone to hate), her brother is pitching in with the
reappearance of St. Zvlkx, (and no, I don't know how that's
pronounced) whose "revealments" seem to indicate that the outcome
of the Superhoop, the croquet championship, could mean the end of
the world as we know it. The Neanderthals are a great help here ---
they're excellent croquet players, even if they don't get
the idea of competition.
Are you lost yet? Is this your first Jasper Fforde? Well, who can
blame you? This is a world where people can move in and out of
literature and, at times, change it. Here, this means that Hamlet
is wandering about --- Thursday is introducing him as her cousin
Eddie. This is a world where mammoths are back, and they migrate
--- quite the scene. Eating your fair share of toast is mandatory.
And time is very elastic.
If you've ever laughed at Terry Pratchett, try SOMETHING ROTTEN. If
you've read the wildly creative Christopher Moore with pleasure,
read Fforde. He excels at terrible (read wonderful) puns,
some of which, as I say, this American reader didn't catch. He
offers silly side stories --- Lady Emma Hamilton and Hamlet?
Really? --- and an alternative universe of corporations gone wild,
where books matter more than most other things. Sadly, though, it
appears that Fforde, while not through by any means, has wrapped up
the amazing adventures of Thursday Next. I'll miss her. And her
dodo Pickwick, of whom I'm quite fond. And her creative, brilliant
and eccentric uncle Mycroft --- you may know him from some books by
a guy named Arthur Conan Doyle (long story).
Oh, and did you know that there was a Mr. Tiggy-Winkle? I
mean, it stands to reason, but I don't think Beatrix Potter ever
got around to mentioning the husband of her hedgehog character. Go
Reviewed by Andi Shechter on January 23, 2011