The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next Novel
Thursday Next is a legend in her own time. Without question the leading enforcement officer in the Bookworld, and quite simply a superstar across several different dimensions, Thursday is a woman in flux, being forced into a new stage of life following a failed assassination attempt. Hobbled with physical injury that prohibits her abilities as a police officer for literary crimes, she must now take on a new task as the Chief Librarian at the "All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library," which obviously takes corporate sponsorship to ridiculous new levels. While her budget is under attack and soon to be reduced by 100%, that is the least of her problems.
Thursday has a mindworm --- a vicious memory plant dropped into her brain by the villainous Aornis Hades, which makes her believe she has a daughter she does not have. Or does her husband, Landon, actually have the mindworm? Or is it their daughter, Tuesday? One of them does. It's troublesome and problematic, and disturbs everyday life. Add to the mix that Aornis has escaped from prison and Thursday is fearful for what could befall her family if Aornis is looking to come back and finish the job. While potential murder and death at the hands of a villain is bad, that is the least of her problems.
"THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT is a more than worthy advancement of the Thursday Next saga, and the setup for book eight is just perfect.... [Fforde] deftly handles multi-plot threads and marries ingredients of mystery, science fiction, humor and literature into one exquisite gift."
The Goliath Corporation, the corporate behemoth that has its hands in everything and had been a target for Thursday in her life as an officer, is up to no good. This is not a surprise. Goliath's security wiz, Jack Schitt, is back --- and boy is he still cheesed about Thursday trapping him within Poe's The Raven way back when. Jack is out to take down Thursday, this time using a team of Day Players --- synthetic replicas of Thursday that are so lifelike that the only way they can be recognized is if they cannot repeat the code phrase Real Thursday has worked up as proof of who she is. But this is the least of her problems.
Thursday's son, Friday, was destined to be a great hero of the ChronoGuard until a glitch in history demanded a shutdown of the time engines. He received a printout of what his new destiny will be, and it's not one he savors. You see, by the end of the week, he will murder Gavin Watkins in cold blood and rot away in prison. So while being forced into a new career, suffering pain of body and mind, avoiding deadly rivals and replacements, Thursday tries to help Friday track down the clues as to why he kills Gavin and to hopefully alter that historical path. You'd think that would be enough, but that's the least of her problems.
God is ticked off. He's been so angry with mankind that he's begun Smiting. The upside is that God gives the people a heads up. So Thursday's real daughter, Tuesday, a wicked scientific genius who is still a teenager in high school, is racing against time to devise a Smite Shield that will protect the town of Swindon from destruction at the hands of a vengeful God. The science isn't working out right and time is running short...and God might not be the only problem in this scenario.
And so is woven the fantastic and hilarious adventure in THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT, the seventh installment in Jasper Fforde's successful Thursday Next series. As with all prior installments, Fforde has worked to keep this story fresh and exciting, and the cavalcade of literary references and tongue-in-cheek jokes makes for fun reading. Thursday is really a shell of her former self, confused and depressed by her career shift, as well as feeling protective of her record as a new hotshot named Phoebe Smalls is lining up a career to surpass her. Thursday drifts from jealous former officer to trusted accomplice, working alongside Phoebe to try and sort out all of the strands of the plot (which the book boasts it now contains 50% more of) and make some sense of things. And a lot of sense needs to be made. But to get to more order, she needs to submerge into more chaos over the one week laid out in the novel.
Perhaps one of the great ideas devised by Fforde and included here are the librarians and just what sort of powers they have. Authorized use of force? Oh, yes. Librarians may, in fact, open fire on you within the library "for the maintenance of the collections and public order." Members of the Special Library Service act as Secret Service agents, swearing to take a bullet to protect the property of the library. Fforde, in one of the witty "non-fiction" paragraphs that open each chapter, tells us that "Libraries have never been quieter, and theft and vandalism dropped by 72 percent." So while Thursday may be a librarian, she is certainly not JUST a librarian.
THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT is a more than worthy advancement of the Thursday Next saga, and the setup for book eight is just perfect. Those who have never read this series are missing out. Jasper Fforde is amongst a handful of spectacularly talented authors who do not receive near the level of attention that they do deserve. He deftly handles multi-plot threads and marries ingredients of mystery, science fiction, humor and literature into one exquisite gift.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on October 12, 2012