Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book

Lost in a Good Book: Thursday Next Novel the 2nd by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: March 31st, 2003 US, 2002 UK
Format: Hardcover, 399 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

When last we saw Thursday Next she was getting her happily ever after with Landen. Of course she had also saved Jane Eyre, even if she significantly altered the ending, eliminated Hades, imprisoned Jack Schitt, the Warmongering Goliath operative, within the pages of Poe's The Raven, ended the Crimean War and generally saved the day. But saving the day tends to get people looking at you as a hero, and heroes need to do the PR rounds, or so says Cordelia Flakk, Spec Ops one woman PR department, who has been desperate for a face to help Spec Ops gain a more friendly foothold with the public at large. After months of press junkets, Thursday has had enough, and after her "no holds barred interview" with Adrian Lush, which ended up being about her Dodo, Pickwick, she's had enough. It's time for her and Landen to settle down and let life get back to normal. But normal is a relative word for someone like Thursday, seeing as her day starts with hearing voices in her head, finding the lost Shakespeare play, Cardenio, getting on a Neanderthal hijacked skyrail where the first time she's shot and the second time, after her father saves her and tells her the world is to end in a few weeks, she's arrested for assaulting an unarmed Neanderthal and ends with Mycroft's retirement party where all the food is pear based and at the end Mycroft and Polly disappear. But despite all that and the SO-5 operatives that are trailing her in an ever changing rota (they keep dying) as well as the Goliath goons, she and Landen bravely try to carry on with their life together, which will soon include a baby. But a picnic leads to another bizarre occurrence of coincidences, confirmed by the Entroscope Mycroft gave her, and culminating in a Hispano-Suiza falling on their picnic, which just might have killed them.

Thursday has obviously too much to deal with, and after her hearing with SO-1 about the Neanderthal incident, things get even weirder. Laden is gone. He has been completely eradicated. Goliath has decided to prove a point. They want Jack Schitt back or Landen will stay gone, having tragically died when he was two years old. Thursday goes into a tailspin... she is still pregnant, but is the baby even Landen's? Where does she live? What has changed? As it seems, much is still the same, despite the eradication of Landen, time being very flexible. But how can she even get into The Raven to get Jack Schitt? The only person she knew of who could bookjump was the Japanese tourist, Mrs. Nakajima, whom she met at Haworth when she was young and again within the pages of Jane Eyre. To Osaka Thursday must go, on the off chance that she can find a clue.

On the short Gravitube ride to Japan she meets the man who she has been hearing in her head. Turns out he's fictional and is to represent her in her trial. Apparently there's an organization inside books, Jurisfiction, which like SO-27, monitors books, and she must answer for her crimes against Jane Eyre... mainly improving the narrative in an unauthorized manner. After another close call with negative entropy and Goliath, Thursday finds herself in the Great Library where she has been expected for some time. Thursday is destined to be a Jurisfiction PROs agent and they have been waiting for her in the Great Library, THE LIBRARY of all books. She is apprenticed to Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, who turns out to be, as expected, a bit of a man hater, but unexpectedly, a speed freak who loves to drive cars. After an unfortunate incident back in Swindon with Miss Havisham at the wheel, where luckily no one was killed, after Thursday's trial was postponed, Thursday must risk her life at a book sale to get a boxed set of romance novels for Miss Havisham before her nemesis, the Red Queen gets them. With a lot of cunning and a little trickery, Thursday passes her test and it looks like she might be a PROs agent yet! But is it a conflict of interest if she's taking the job just to get Landen back? Also is Poe really off limits to all PROs agents as Miss Havisham warns?

But between her duties at Spec Ops, the mysterious appearance of Cardenio, her new duties to Jurisfiction, her landlord, her pregnancy, her missing husband, the general election, Cordelia Flakk and her contest winners, and the fact that the world just might end in a few days, Thursday's life is more complicated then ever. Also the fact that only an evil genius could be behind the forthcoming apocalypse and her attempted murders by coincidence is unnerving to say the least. Hades is dead. Isn't he? But then who is this person of equal evil with the same initials who keeps offing the SO-5 agents and wants Thursday fitted for a coffin?

This book took a long time for me to get into, but it was totally worth the wait. So much of the beginning is tying up loose ends, to an extent. It's not that they're really loose ends even, more repercussions from what happened in the first novel that feel like loose ends while you're waiting for the novel to really start. Also the Neanderthal's are really kind of stupid, not intellectually mind you. I would say pointless, but I get the point of them, especially if you take into consideration animal testing and then genetic experiments, I see why they are valid, and I do love Granny Next's interaction with them, but overall I feel they detract from the book and the world Fforde has created. So once you get past the Neanderthals and Thursday's blissful honeymoon days of her marriage and Landen gets eradicated, the novel really starts to pick up. But it is not until she actually jumps into the Great Library and meets the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat (previously the Cheshire Cat till county boundaries were redrawn) that I fell in love with this book.

The world of Jurisfiction is beyond anyone's wildest biblomanical dreams. It's a place where you can go from book to book, from back-stories to footnotes and partake in the book character exchange program. Where bowdlerizers are very dangerous and gammersites, especially adjunctavores that stripe an object of adjectives are a very real threat. The place is like a grown up version of Alice in Wonderland, very fitting seeing as who the librarian is. Then there is Thursday's teacher, Miss Havisham... she is outrageous, a wonderful contradiction! Fforde has taken a very sad, lonely woman and made her almost more alive and over the top than Dickens could have ever done... well he couldn't have really made her love of automotives known given the time period he wrote in. The fact that she wears trainers and carries a gun, to deal with her nemesis and the throngs of book buyers, is beyond hysterical. The scene at the book sale is one of the best in the book. With the injured Miss Havisham spurring Thursday on by telling her if she doesn't succeed against the Red Queen to get the trashy romance novels box set then she doesn't have a hope of becoming a Jurisfiction agent is pitch perfect.

The world within the world of books Fforde has created is what makes this series so wonderful. He has expanded on literature's beloved characters and given them truly paradoxical behaviors, but ones that we've long suspected they might hold. He has shown us something that we've believed in and held true for years but have never been told outright before. The world within books is far greater than we could ever imagine! It is best not to over-think this though... sometimes I'd find myself questioning the logic of his world, and in books it's best not too. Because between the pages and lines anything could conceivably happen so it's best just to enjoy the ride, just not with Miss Havisham driving. Also, I know Mary Anne Dashwood was driving a plane, but could you please get her out of the Victorian dress, thank you very much.


This sounds like one roller coaster of a book! I love the title and after your review, I just might have to pick this one up. Thanks :)

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


This sounds incredibly imaginative and interesting. Thanks!

I really enjoyed reading this book.hehe, and you brought back to me the book sale and Havishams love of cars! So vividly.

Glad to bring back the book sale memory... it's a memory to be cherished!

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