Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's One of Our Thursdays is Missing

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Book Provided by Viking
Publication Date: March 8th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
The written Thursday Next has a lot to handle. Since the destruction of Thursday1-4, Thursday5 has become the only written Thursday Next with five books falling to her. She views it her duty to due justice by the real Thursday Next, which none of her fellow book characters like. Under the regime of the previous Thursday they were allowed to run whatever scams and deals they felt like, secure in the knowledge of a strong reader base due to the amounts of sex and violence. That reader base is gone. There are now only a few die hard readers, leading the books to become more in danger. But the Bookworlds love of the real Thursday should keep their place at the far end of speculative fiction and fantasy. Of course, all these changes would be easier if the real Thursday would stop by and give a thumbs up to quell the rising discontent, especially at the arrival of Thursday's new understudy, Carmine.

Sadly, the understudy is a must, because while failing to be a Jurisfiction agent, Thursday has managed to get a little power investigating Bookworld accidents... one of which takes her across the remade Bookworld to conspiracy, where she not only finds something fishy, but she realizes people are thinking she's the real Thursday, not the written one. To add further confusion, she has ended up with the real Thursday's Jurisfiction badge, because the truth could be stranger than anything those conspiracy nuts could dream up. With doubt lingering as to where the real Thursday is and if the written Thursday might only think she's written and actually be real, Thursday, whichever she might be, views it her duty to get to the bottom of things with her trusty new sidekick, Sprocket, the automaton butler. But there are people who don't want the truth uncovered, mysterious Men in Plaid, and there's the peace talks with Racy novel coming at the end of the week that if Thursday isn't there for, could mean all out war. Sneaking off to the real world, Thursday finally meets the love of her life, Landen, omitted from the books for copyright reasons. It would be so tempting to stay, blue fairy it and become the real Thursday, whether she is or not. But the "Thursday" in whichever Thursday she is, won't allow questions to be left unanswered. So back in the Bookworld, secrets must be uncovered, the truth found and Thursday's identity solved.

Jasper Fforde books are usually very meta, but I think I've reached my threshold. This book was a Thursday Next book without Thursday Next. Instead we follow around the written Thursday, who, while thankfully is not contemplating her navel too much, is still just not Thursday enough. Even if she's able to confuse the other characters in the book, you could tell she wasn't the genuine article. There was just too much that bothered me in the book to make this an enjoyable read. The major gripe I have is the entire reinvention of the Bookworld. Instead of the Bookworld we knew and loved with the great library and jumping from book to book, now we have an actual world, there's even a map. Couple this with Thursday not really being Thursday and it's like Fforde is starting back at the beginning. I don't want to start back at the beginning! I have grown to know and love the characters and the world he has created, only to have him completely destroy it. Characters we cared for are now through the looking glass and act as vapid and self obsessed "actors." Turning everything on it's head we get too much Bookworld and not enough real world. You need grounding to make something this far out there work, and without Laden and the kids, there is no grounding. Plus the whole reason for the Racy Novel war, which has been brewing for a long time, seems to only work within the new world structure with a globe and geography... which leads me to wonder, why was there a war looming before the reinvention? But worst of all? The cliffhanger from previous novel is still unresolved with this "filler" book. There was no tying up of loose ends, just a lot of jokes and asides that led nowhere.

Now, my mini-rant above, doesn't mean that there wasn't things that I enjoyed. There was a through plot, which some of his previous books have lacked, it just wasn't the one I wanted. I also love how he is will to take the piss out of himself with the self mocking tone indicating that his books have an inherent crappiness that leads to them being remaindered. Of course he also hints, that these are almost proto novels, his books aren't done, and it will take written Thursday's intervention for the books to evolve into the books we know and love. The Thursday Next books aren't "there" yet, but one day, they will be. I also liked the little Agatha Christie Death on the Nile parody as well as Jenny's existence being established. It was also nice to see Fforde reaching out to currently popular genres like Steampunk and Fan Fic, which, while Fan Fic does verge on the line of plagiarism, I like that the island was a fun and happy place, if lacking depth. It kind of reminded me of a Con. But at the end of the day, the little things didn't help the big things. I hope that the next Thursday Next book actually has Thursday and not some pale imitation. Each book has been a little weaker, and a little more a shadow of the initial genius of The Eyre Affair, and maybe it's time to put Thursday out to pasture, because if this "reinvention" was a way to try to invigorate the series, it failed. If given the choice though, I still think he should focus on writing the follow up to Shades of Grey, the best book he's ever written and one of my favorites of all time.


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