Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Thursday Next Series, by Jasper Fforde

When I find a book that I love, and it’s part of a series, you can bet big money that I’ll be rushing out to the local Chapters to pick up all the other books.  Finding a good series, one that I can sink my teeth into and really enjoy, is a treat, and something that doesn’t happen all that often.  So, after reading (and loving) The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, I immediately rushed out and picked up the rest of the books in the Thursday Next Series: Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and The Woman Who Died a Lot.  (And I see there’s to be an eighth book – Dark Reading Matter, expected in 2015.)

Fforde’s Thursday Next universe is one that is remarkable similar to our own.  Thursday lives and works in Swindon, and the day-to-day niceties are all the same.  But Thursday’s world is one of time-travel, genetic splicing, and werewolves.  Thursday works for a branch of the British government that deals with literary crimes, has a pet dodo named Pickwick, and has a time-travelling father who has gone rogue and so was never technically born.

But, this is only Thursday’s life in our world.  What makes Thursday’s adventures so interesting and exciting is that she is able to jump into BookWorld; the world in which all books of fiction exist.  In BookWorld, the characters are living, breathing people, independent of their plot lines; settings are only in use when a book is being read; and all sorts of shenanigans and hijinks occur for which Thursday and the other agents of Jurisfiction are required to step in and police the goings on of the citizens of BookWorld.  It all sounds highly unbelievable, but when Fforde sets BookWorld in the terms of modern bureaucracy, it all becomes very relatable and understandable; somehow, he was able to create a fictional world that lives right under the readers’ noses.  And the meta-jokes.  So many meta-jokes.

Stepping into the Thursday Next universe takes two things: 1- suspension of disbelief, and 2- a sense of humour.  If you can bring both of these things to a reading of these books, you’re guaranteed to love them.  Thursday’s adventures, and the people that populate them, are all highly unbelievable and at first I wasn’t sure if I could fully buy into them.  But by the end of book two, they become de rigueur; at some point, it becomes completely understandable and acceptable that croquet is the world’s favorite sport, that minotaurs dress in trench-coats and drop pianos on people, and that dodos just can’t be taught to stand on one leg, no matter how many marshmallows you offer them.

So, final verdict?  I loved these books, and so I would highly recommend them.  Fforde’s writing style is highly accessible, his characters are incredibly engaging, and his plots are unique, innovative and enjoyable.  If you’re the type of person that enjoys a quirky read, then these books are for you.  Fforde’s got several other books out (and a couple from a new series), and I’ll definitely be picking them up in the near future.

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