Reading Log: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels actually isn't. First, that is. This is the latest edition of the Thursday Next series that began with The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel, and continued with Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next Novels), The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series), and Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels). And that doesn't even include the Once Upon a Nursery novels, nor the subsequently erased Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. Yes, erased.
See, the Book World is a beast of its own. It houses characters when they are not on screen in their own novels and it has its own complicated set of rules, jurisdictions, and protocols. And Thursday Next is one of the very few Outlanders (real lifers) who can pass between this world and that world.
Books in the Thursday Next series almost always have some sort of dramatic problem in need of solving. For instance, in The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel, Thursday was responsible for making sure that a pack of disgruntled readers didn't highjack the text of Jane Eyre and force it to end with Jane marrying St. John and moving to India with him. In Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, it is all of classic literature in danger, starting with Jane Austen's novels. With book reading rates at an all time low in the Outland (which, of course, has dire consequences in the Book World), some on the Council of Genres want to turn the classics into reality TV shows that will compete directly with such productions as Samaritan Kidney Swap. The TV show will permanently rewrite and erase all of classic fiction. Furthermore, the stupidity of this venture will help the Outland deal with its excessive reserve of stupidity before that reserve overflows and causes unrecoverable damage.
In with the excitement of preserving the classics, Thursday has to deal with a rogue version of herself, Thursday1-4 (a character with delusions of grandeur) and Thursday5 from Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco (no longer available because it was erased in Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, and negotiate with the Chronoguard who is trying to replace her current son Friday with a different Friday who will join the Chronoguard, become a director-general and invent time travel which is what allows the alternate current Friday exist in the first place. (Confused? Me too. Fforde's novels are not for those who don't like a little head-spinning now and again.)
Only with Fforde do readers encounter characters such as Jack Schitt and his wife, Dr. Anne Wirthlass Schitt. We have well-known and beloved literary characters acting out of character, and armies of Danver-clones (as in Mrs. Danver from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca; don't ask about the clone part...just read the books) ready to invade Racy Novels to prevent Racy Novels from following through on a threat to deploy a dirty bomb in Ecclesiastical and/or Feminist (a dirty bomb is "a tightly packed mass of inappropriate plot devices, explicit suggestions and sexual scenes of an expressly gratuitous nature. The 'dirty' elements of the bomb fly apart at a preset time and attach themselves to unshielded prose" ). And oh, yes, it gets better!
I picked up Thursday Next: First Among Sequels without rereading any of the prequels. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, but I may have picked up on a lot more of the humor and nuance if I remembered exactly how some of the plot devices worked and who exactly was who. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this latest addition to the Thursday Next series, and have yet to see a more creative and clever author (especially where the subject of literature is the concern).