Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels

First Among Sequels: Thursday Next Novel the 5th by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: January 24th, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 362 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

A lot has changed in the twelve years since we last saw Thursday Next. She now is the star of five books, the first four being very well received due to the sex and violence, while the touchy-feely fifth book is remaindered. But not that her being a star of books matters with the continuing plummet of outland reader rates. The world has changed, why read books when there's reality tv suited for those with short attention spans. The world Thursday knew and loved is gone. Bookstores are more likely to have video games and coffee shops than any books. The new and efficient government has made Spec Ops obsolete as a government entity. So Thursday runs a carpeting business that's a front for her old Spec Ops unit, which is run on proceeds from illegal cheese sales, which in itself is a front for still working at Jurisfiction. None of which she tells her husband, Landen. The years are catching up to Thursday, even book jumping is harder and harder. She has two teenagers, one of which is a sullen boy who should have joined the Chronoguard awhile back to assure the future and the discovery of time travel, but of course, try telling a teenager that the world depends on him actually leaving his bed. Not to mention a big old baddie from the past shows up. Felix8. Aornis Hades might know what's going on, as unlike other members of the Hades family, she's easy to access seeing as she's being detained in an eight minute time loop at a check out lane at T.J. Maxx. Of course, villains rarely agree to help.

While in the book world Thursday is training both her book counterparts, the leather clad Thursday1-4 and the patchouli loving Thursday5. Neither of which will ever make a good agent. Thursday5 has a sweet heart, but she almost got Thursday killed by the Minotaur. Whereas Thursday1-4 is nothing but bad news, dropping a piano right into the plot of Jane Austen's Emma. Also there are signs that Goliath, the evil mega corporation, is working once again on breaking into books. Traffic between the two worlds is a no no. The crashing together of the two worlds, fiction with reality, could tear the very fabric of the book world apart. And that's just what the current government wants to do. They want to take Pride and Prejudice and make it a reality show. But not just any reality show, one within the book, so once changed, the story will be changed forever and one of the classics will be gone, never to return. Of course, they're not thinking of the bigger picture. What with government stupidity, corporate pigheadedness and death threats on characters within the bookworld, besides Thursday herself, it's a wonder that anything turns out right.

After getting to the final page in this book I have to say I'm glad I waited to read it till I had the next book in hand. The bigger conspiracy working within the bookworld that is targeting Thursday, and other characters, such as Temperance Brennan, making a much needed cameo, is starting to pick up speed and the pieces from all five of the current stories seem to be weaving together to create a larger threat. While the plot was still extremely convoluted and filled with techno babble, the little literary in jokes, not to mention the return of the bookworld, made this a far more enjoyable read than the previous installment. Mrs. Bennet needing to be restrained in a closet, the real reason for the appearance of the piano in Emma, to Bones' cameo in the back story of a P.G. Wodehouse novel were pure delight to my bookworm brain. Also the true meaning of what "T.J. Maxx" stands for is priceless, whereas the real reason for Aornis' imprisonment is heartbreaking.

The one thing I really didn't like though is the person Thursday has become. What with three very different incarnations of her walking about the pages of this book, you realize that yes, you don't want the two written extremes, but you don't really want the real Thursday either. She's a workaholic, she lies to the man she fought tooth and nail to have reactualized, and she does illegal dealings in order to keep this on track, all the while leaving other people to clean up her mess. She has not aged that gracefully, even if she can still kick ass, you have to ask, at what expense? And on a final note, the falling reader rates and the lack of book sales rings sadly true, what with Borders declaring bankruptcy, and while giving the book a poignancy, it brings such a sadness to me. I asked for a little literary escapism, to literal truths.


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