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I’M DELIGHTED to share the alternative world of author Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series, from The Eyre Affair to the one I’m reading now, One of our Thursdays is Missing, to his latest, The Woman Who Died a Lot, which I have on order, to Dark Reading Matter, in the works. Maybe you’d enjoy his whacky world too.
Fforde’s parallel universe has literature in prime place, with a fuzzy relationship between it and ordinary (non-Ffordean) reality. A SpecOps organization attempts to keep it all straight. Literary detectives, LiteraTecs, deal with literary crimes; Chronoguards handle matters of time travel, regular occurrences in this alternative world filled with literary references, wordplay and in-jokes.
For instance, harmless (though annoying) proselytizers show up on doorsteps to argue whether Bacon, Marlowe or the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays of Shakespeare. There are also a Prose Portal and other means through which people can enter into literary settings.
Thursday Next is the heroine and main character through all eight (thus far) of this particular Fforde series. “She’s part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew, and part Dirty Harry,” said a reviewer in The New York Times.
In the first novel, The Eyre Affair, Next’s former professor, the evil Acheron Hades, is now a terrorist intent on stealing original manuscripts of the world’s great literature. By changing the original, he’s able to invoke the same modification in all copies of the book.
That is, Hades is toying with (Ffordean) reality!
Eventually, amateur LiteraTec Next wins out by reuniting Jane Eyre with Edward Fairfax Rochester—and thus preserving the familair Jane Eyre ending.
There’s a government conspiracy in Lost in a Good Book, the second in the series. Thursday is apprenticed as a Jurisfiction agent to Miss Haversham of Dickens’ Great Expectations. She meets up with Aornis Hades, Acheron’s sister who has the power to edit people’s memories (now there’s an opportunity for evil…).
Thursday continues her apprenticeship in The Well of Lost Plots as well as her battle with Aornis Hades. There’s an evil influence of BOOK version 9, code-named Ultraword, making books impossible to read more than three times, thus—horrors!—rendering libraries and secondhand bookstores useless.
Thursday’s pet dodo, Pickwick, plays a prominent role.
In Something Rotten, Thursday teams up with Hamlet and learns that Bookworld is going crazy. The plays Hamlet and The Merry Wives of Windsor have merged into one called The Merry Wives of Elsinore (as a character notes, “it takes a long time to get funny, and, when it does, everyone dies”). Thursday triumphs, of course, and even finds time in her real world to help the Swindon Mallets win the 1988 Croquet Superhoop.
First Among Sequels has plenty of time travel, with Thursday1-4 and Thursday5 as characters. There are also Thursday’s three kids: Friday, her only boy, “a tedious teenage cliché: grunting, sighing at any request, and staying in bed until past midday”; daughter Tuesday, who solves Fermat’s Last Theorem at the age of 9; and Jenny, so named in hope that “one of us should have a semblance of normality.” (Jenny never actually appears; might she be merely a product of Aornis Hades’ mind-editing?)
I’ve just started One of our Thursdays is Missing. Thus far Thursday has been offered to attend the Running of the Bumbles, where two dozen gruel-crazed and indignant Mr. Bumbles yelling “More? MORE??” are released to charge through an unused chapter of Oliver Twist.
I love it. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013