Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots: Thursday Next Novel the 3rd by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2004 US, 2003 UK
Format: Hardcover, 375 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Thursday, finding the real world a bit much at present, what with SpecOps, Aronis Hades and Goliath, has decided to take a bit of a sabbatical thanks to Jurisfiction's generous character exchange program. Thursday's husband Landen my still be missing from the collective conscious, but at least she's got a nice book to live in while she awaits the birth of their child and schemes how to get him re-actualized. Taking over for a character by the name of Mary in the book Caversham Heights, Thursday thinks that it will be a nice relaxing time, occasionally doing her narrative duty with Inspector Jack Spratt while living in a fictionalized version of Reading. Little does she know that things are never as they seem in The Library, especially when you are in the well of lost plots. Besides having two generic characters living with her, they may one day end up being someones, maybe even someones of note in literature, she also has her Gran, who never really explains how she's able to just pop round. Luckily for Thursday she has such a resourceful Gran, because who else will keep reminding her to remember Landen and defeat the mind worm that Aronis has planted in Thursday's brain to destroy Thursday and the love of her life. But worst of all Caversham Heights may be heading for the great text sea... it's time may be at an end, but what will happen to Thursday's new home and all the friends she's met?

But Thursday's living situation, while accomplished by her job in Jurisfiction, doesn't even match her job for all out weirdness. There's a missing Minotaur, which may be responsible for not only the death of a colleague, but also an outbreak of the misspelling virus. There's counseling sessions that need to be held within Wuthering Heights to keep the characters in line. Heathcliff hatred being at an all time high, with danger from within and danger from without, with the Pro Caths. Thursday's ongoing court case for her changing the ending of Jane Eyre. Havisham's need for speed is at an all time high and she's determined to beat Toad, from The Wind in the Willows... no matter what it takes! Also that rogue, Vernham Deane, might be behind the rash of disappearances and murders happening among the ranks of Jursifiction... he is after all missing in action. With the unveiling of the new book operating system, UltraWord, just days away at the annual book awards, things need to be resolved, and resolved fast, so that the new OS can be embraced and a new day will dawn for books the world over. But what's that you said about a thrice read rule?

You can't really sum up a Jasper Fforde book. Jasper himself has never found a satisfactory way to do so. The Nextian logic is so random and nonsensical you just have to read it and enjoy it, while at the same time trying not to over-analyze it. The problem I face at the beginning of each of his books is that with it's fragmented nature it's hard to get into it. You can't quite grasp what's going on for awhile, until suddenly something happens that is so wonderful and so funny you can't help but fall in love with it from that moment on. For me that happened at the Wuthering Heights counseling session. Having Havisham being forced to counsel a group of misfits who are rightfully angry at Heathcliff, who saunters in late all brooding sexiness, until his life is threatened and he is cowering like a dog begging Havisham to save him was too perfect. Plus to have an avowed man hater standing up for Heathcliff and trying to aid in the discussion is just dripping with irony. But aside from that scene, which has to be in my top Fforde scenes, I found this my least favorite of his books.

I took issue with the whole construction of the well of lost plots. It's kind of a weird Dickensian back alley or market place where trading is going on in a distinctly black-market way. I viewed the well more shadowy threats and cold barren hallways, not in your face hawkers and bars with back room dealings. The well, with it's trades and auctions and generics seemed to demystify the writing process and make it more of an industry or business. A stripping away of the mystery of inspiration and making it more slot a into tab b, but with a slutty girl being slot a and tab b being a plot contrivance. I found it a little odd that an author would kind of openly, not slam, but take writers down a peg. It's not that Jasper is saying anyone can do it, more that he's saying that, everything is here and bits and pieces in the right amounts assembled by the right person a novel do make. And I'm not sure I agree, but I am sure that I will read his next book... which happens to be a Next book. On a quick final note, I didn't like what happened to Havisham...


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