March 24, 2011

BOOKS: One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Jasper Fforde (2011)

Seventh  Sixth in the Thursday Next series, and another fine installment, but (as will quickly become clear) probably not the place for the newbie to jump into the series.

The adventures of Thursday Next, Jurisfiction agent, continue with the usual inventive wit, but Fforde makes two big changes here that shake things up a bit. First, he completely re-structures BookWorld with "the great rewriting." The Great Library is gone, and it's replaced by a geographically arranged BookWorld; we spend the most time on Fiction Island, which is broken down into Genres (Horror, Human Drama, Comedy, etc.) and further broken down into districts/neighborhoods. In Comedy, for instance, you might travel through Slapstick on the way to Knock-Knock (be careful not to get lost on the Dudley Moor).

The second big change is that this novel takes place almost entirely within BookWorld, and Thursday is not our narrator. Well, not the real Thursday, at any rate; the narrator here is the written Thursday, who's very much like, but (as a fictional version) not precisely the same as the real thing. She looks very much like the real Thursday, though -- far more so than most fictionalized versions -- so when the real Thursday goes missing, Jurisfiction calls on her to fill in at a crucial negotiation. (That nasty border skirmish between Racy Novel and Women's Fiction won't settle itself, you know.)

These changes give Fforde a lot of new ideas to play with. In particular, we get more insight into the daily life of a BookWorld character, largely through written Thursday's training of a new understudy. There are also the usual inspired riffs on classic literature -- there's a Dostoevsky bit in the first chapter that had me in giggles -- and the marvelous character names. Meet the gentleman who runs the Conspiracy district, for instance: Roswell Bilderberg.

If you haven't read any of the previous volumes, much of the preceding is probably rather confusing. They're all really good books, though, so start at the beginning with The Eyre Affair and work your way through.

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