Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten

Something Rotten: Thursday Next Novel the 4th by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: August 5th, 2004
Format: Hardcover, 389 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

After two years of hunting the Minotaur, two years of being without Landen but with his son, two years away from Swindon and the real world, Thursday Next decides it's time to go home. But as a parting gift from the fictional world she has been policing, she gets to watch Hamlet in the real world or "Outland" as the fictional tend to call it. Which isn't really the safest place for him, seeing as the fictional Yorrick Kaine has miraculously risen to the post of Chancellor and is planing a takeover of Britain by stirring up anti-Danish sentiment. But at least Hamlet fits right in at Thursday's mom's, where she has set up a home for the wayward and time lost, from that tart, Emma Hamilton to Bismack, where they all agree on one thing. Mrs, Next's Battenburg cake is awesome.
No longer working for Jurisfiction, Thursday has one goal, get Landen reactualized. It really was rude of Goliath to take him away by killing him before he had had a chance to grow up. Ironically enough, that which she thought would be hardest, might be the easiest, as Goliath is now going from corporate greed into a faith based company and are willing to right the wrongs of their past. Thursday's life though could never be that easy. What with St. Zvlkx, the oddly accurate prophet returning to his flock, the fate of the world resting of his prediction as to whether the Swindon Mallets will win the super hood croquet match. Because if they don't, well... the world will literally end. Also Thursday is being stalked by a sniper with a hit on her who happens to be married to her friend Spike, and also an officially licensed stalker. Once she enlists herself to lead the Mallets to victory as well as working her job back in Spec Ops, all bets are off, or on... kind of like her husband's reactualization, that seems to come and go. If the world would just be nice and not end perhaps she could spend a little time with her family for the first time in a long time.
The most convoluted and hard to follow book in the series lacks the charm of the previous installments by moving the action out of the books and into the real world. Mired and bogged down with politics and prophecies, there is no flow, there is no sustenance in this book, there is no plot. Sure there's Thursday's goal of getting Landen back and ousting Kaine and stopping the world from ending, but throw in Danish book burnings, tons of techno babble and Neanderthals on all sides and you just end up confused and hoping for some through line, something to gel, some cohesion. But, alas, it isn't to be. Just when I thought there might be some semblance of logical illogic, we end up at the River Styx... This kind of novel that finds the humor in the illogical, that is, in essence, sheer nonsense, is a risky balancing act. No modern author, in my mind, has perfected this as well as Terry Pratchett, mixing fantasy and science fiction with anachronisms in the most skillful of ways. Lewis Carroll was another. To make sense out of nonsense takes a genius. Just look at all the books out there who have failed to do this. Jasper Fforde is usually among the success stories. He is able to balance the zany world of book zealots and inside bookworm humor with this futuristic yet 80s society. This time he just tipped the scales a bit too far in one direction and it came out not the best. I think his first book in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, was the anchoring of this series. Since then there have been ideas and concepts that happen in the bookworld that I feel don't jive. But usually Fforde is able to cover up these plot failings with humor and bravado... but this time the techno babble and politicians left me flat. So once more into the breach! The next book could be the game changer.


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