The 5th book in the ingenious Thursday Next series, First Among Sequels is another excursion into the charming and convoluted world of books-within-books. This series is a thrilling blend of adventure, mystery, comedy, fantasy with a dose of time travel for good measure. One of the most original stories ever written, a series that rewrites all the rules while maintaining an unshakable love of books at its heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Fforde certainly has a different approach to telling a story, and helping you to use your imagination.
Just when I thought I was caught up on this series, the author leaves it on a cliff-hanger! I loved the use of other Thursdays in this one, as well as several other plots in it. This is one of my favorite authors and I look forward to the next book... whenever it comes out... sigh...
First Line: The dangerously high level of the stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in The Owl that morning.
I stumbled across the first book in this series on a table at a local Barnes & Noble. The only reason why I bought The Eyre Affair was that I am a Jane Eyre fan-- and the plot sounded like fun. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! There is a reason why the books in this series are consistently nominated for (or winners of) the Dilys Award-- they are so filled with word play, social commentary, satire, and literary allusions that they are just plain fun to sell. I know that I've waved more than my fair share of copies of The Eyre Affair in the faces of people who asked me what I thought they should read.
In Thursday Next, First Among Sequels, it's been fourteen years since the action in Something Rotten. Thursday and her husband have several children, including a very cranky sixteen-year-old named Friday. Thursday puts on her uniform and shows up for work at Carpet World in Swindon every day. But things are not quite as they seem. (If you've read Fforde, you know that last sentence is a given.)
Sherlock Holmes dies at Rheinback Falls, and the series comes to a screeching halt. Miss Marple dies in a car accident, and she's stuck her nose into her last investigation. When strange things begin to happen to Thursday's fictional self, she knows what's going on: there's a serial killer loose in the Bookworld. To top it all off, Goliath Corporation -- which has been strangely silent the past few years-- wants to deregulate book travel. It's time for the real Thursday to stand up, to stop making illegal cheese buys, and to save the Bookworld once again!
When I began reading these books, I was afraid that half the puns, other word play, and references to things British were zooming over my head at the speed of light. Now that I'm a bit older, I've mellowed. Yes, I may very well be missing some bits, but I don't care-- I love all the bits that I do understand.
These books always have an interesting storyline-- like the one in which the serial killer resides-- but there is so much more going on. Reading Fforde's take on modern society (such as the stupidity surplus) is so true that it's funny, and I laugh even though I have a good idea that I shouldn't. If you tire of social commentary, puns, satire, the twists and turns of the plot... and you just want a good laugh, reading the scene of Thursday's illegal cheese buy is out-and-out hilarious. Fforde's world is even facing declining book sales just like our world.
For those of you who have hesitated to read these books because you believe you're just not well-informed about classics like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, I urge you to reconsider. There's been a book or two that's been included in the series that I'm not well-acquainted with, but it really didn't make a difference. More than anything else, reading these books is all about FUN. That's "fun" in capitals-- something that we all could use a good strong dose of.
This is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series. The sixth book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, is scheduled for release in March of 2011. This was a great installment in this series. It started out a bit slower than previous books, but ended up being very engaging. It does end on a cliffhanger though, which previous books haven't done. I listened to this on audio book and the audio book was extremely well done. I have really been enjoying listening to this series even more than reading it.
This book starts 14 years after the events that take place in Something Rotten. Thursday and Landon have been happily married and have three children; Tuesday, Friday, and Jenny. Thursday is still doing Spec Ops work but works a carpeting job as cover. She is also still doing Jurisfiction work but using Spec Ops as a cover for that. The nation has a huge stupidity surplus because of good government that's been in place too long and someone keeps trying to kill Thursday...again. On top of all of this Thursday's son, Friday, has not developed into the time traveling genius he should have and as a result time travel may not have ever been invented causing the unraveling of time as we know it.
As usual with these books the plot is a complex jumble of seemingly random occurrences that all tie nicely together. I had been hoping to learn more about Thursday's time traveling son Friday, and was happy to be able to do that in this book. This book is just as witty, crazy, and well tied together as the previous ones. And although Thursday is much older, she is just as much fun to be around. It was nice to see how she juggled having teenagers with all her other craziness.
Thursday's children are all a delight to finally meet. Tuesday is a mathematical genius and Friday is a lazy guitar planning stereotype. Her husband Landon is as wonderful as ever.
All the above being said while I really liked this book, there were a couple things that made me like it a bit less than the previous ones. It starts out kind of slow. At the beginning I was worried, it seemed like maybe with age Thursday had lost some speed and the plot slowed with her. This was a temporary problem and as the book continued it picked up. I also did not like all the lying. Throughout the book Thursday is constantly lying to Landon and that drove me crazy! How could they have a workable relationship with all of this lying? It was all resolved well in the end though.
Speaking of the end...this book ends on a total cliffhanger and very abruptly. Basically in the last few pages of the book Fforde starts a completely new story line and then stops in the middle of it, so that was a bit of a bother too.
Overall a great installment in the Thursday Next series. Starts a bit slow and all the lying Thursday does to Landon drove me crazy. But the writing was creative, crazy, and witty like normal and things picked up in the end. This book does end on a cliffhanger though, so I am dying to see what happens in One of Our Thursdays is Missing.
This Thursday Next novel seemed to move a bit slower than the earlier ones, but it could have been that the plot is more complicated, or at least, I found it so.
But I still loved it and can't wait for the next one!
From the inside cover:
"Fourteen years after she pegged out at the 1988 Super Hoop (in _Something Rotten_), Thursday Next is grappling with a host of new problems in the BookWorld: a recalcitrant new apprentice, the death of Sherlock Holmes and the inexplicable departure of comedy from the once-hilarious Thomas Hardy novels....
"Back in Swindon, the government is reporting a dangerously high stupidity surplus, the Stiltonista Cheese Mafia is causing trouble for Thursday and the literary detective scene isn't what it used to be....
"At home, Thursday's idle sixteen-year old son would rather sleep all day than follow his destiny as a member of the ChronoGuard, the force that regulates time travel, and save the world from immenent destruction...."
The narration was so low key that, for me, even some of the subtle humor--and my attention--was lost. Partway through the recording I stopped listening and picked up the book, which I enjoyed much better.
All I can say is that half the pleasure of reading Fforde's Thursday Next series is in ferreting out the myriad literary references slipped into the work. The fifth book in the series was no different in this respect, playing in fiction, poetry and the oral tradition.
This was a really fun read that plays with Thursday as both an "outlander" and a member of Jurisfiction, the fictional version of Spec Ops (So27) policing the fictional world's woes, uncannily like and unlike the real world. Set 14 years after the last novel, we find Spec Ops disbanded, the England in a stupidity surplus, and Thursday's young son Friday the typical petulant teenager.
In addition to the swirl of messiness in the outside world Thursday is dealing with her fictional selves... with Thursday 1-4 being the gun toting, swearing, sarcastic and sex loving version while Thursday 5 is the flower child worried more about her chakkras than learning the ropes at Jurisfiction.
Add in the mega corporation Goliath's ever present meddling, buracratic nonsense in the book world, and the usual attempts on (the real) Thursday's life, and you have another highly readable, addictive book from Jasper Fforde.
If you like this series, and you love Jane Austen, you'll really like this book.
The fifth book in the literary detective series didn't get off to quite as rollicking a start as the last three, and Fforde's prose seems just the tiniest bit lazy compared to his usual acrobatic style, but we do get to learn more about the BookWorld, and by the end of the novel, I found myself just as riveted as I have with his previous works. If you're already a Thursday Next fan, add this book to your pile.