Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Among Rev - er ... Sequals ... right.

This is my review of the absurdist fiction book, fifth in the Thursday Next Series:

First Among Sequels
by Jasper Fforde

I am a huge Fforde fan but this book, released in 2007, took me a while to get to.
Like the books "Sunshine" (Robin McKinley) and "99 Coffins" (Scott Wellington), my former biker turned book enthusiast Indigo employee, Cookie, pointed me to the Thursday next series. I picked up The Eyre Affair and read it through in a night, squealing about it to the boyfriend so much that he grabbed it from me and read the whole thing too (Trust, he never reads, this is huge).

So when I got to the fifth book, Boyfriend had already passed me and bought it and I had to wait for him to finish it ... and he's a slow reader.

I finally got it at the beginning of law school, and promptly lost it. Then my Mom found it a couple of months ago in one of my book bags, and it sat on my TBR pile at my apartment until yesterday when I picked it up and read it through until 5 this morning. Needless to say, I enjoyed it.

And now I will tell you why:

It is fourteen years since Thursday Next pegged out at the 1988 SuperHoop, and the Special Operations Network has been disbanded. Using Swindon’s Acme Carpets as a front, Thursday and her colleagues Bowden, Stig and Spike continue their same professions, only illegally.
Of course, this front is itself a front for Thursday’s continued work at Jurisfiction, the Policing agency within BookWorld, and she is soon grappling with a recalcitrant new apprentice, an inter-genre war or two, and the inexplicable departure of comedy from the once-hilarious Thomas Hardy books.
As the Council of Genres decree that making books interactive will boost flagging readership levels, and Goliath attempts to perfect a trans-fictional tourist coach, Thursday finds herself in the onerous position of having to side with the enemy to destroy a greater evil that threatens the very fabric of the reading experience.
With Aornis Hades once again on the prowl, an idle sixteen-year-old son who would rather sleep in than save the world from the end of time, a government with a dangerously high stupidity surplus and the Swindon 'Stiltonistas' trying to muscle in on her cheese-smuggling business, Thursday must once again travel to the very outer limits of acceptable narrative possibilities to triumph against increasing odds.
 First off - if you haven't read the other books in the series ... well ... that's okay, actually - they seem to all wrap around and somehow make sense anyway ... thank the Chrono guard for that ... or can we now ...?

The Thursday Next series is the height of absurdist fiction - it's hilarious, at times heavy handed, and generally a hilariously good time.

This one is set YEARS after the original 4 books, and Thursday's life is pretty ordinairy - married, kids, job ... or is it? She is is still hopping over to the book world all the time, still fixing all of fiction's huge problems, and still trying to balance this with being thee working wife and mother she is. Along the way there is more bald Dodo, no wooly mammoths in this one though, and a great cast of rememberable characters ... if in fact you do get to remember them at all ...

The hook of this series is the fact that Fforde grounds it in enough British realism as possible before diving headlong into the insanity that is his book world: and honestly, who wouldn't love the chance to go into the classic, throw pianos about and generally act out the book?

Fforde does get a little heavy handed with this one - you can see the frustration leap off the page every time he talks about how people don't read anymore, but it is done in such a funny way that you can't help but to agree with him (honestly - reality series set in Pride and Prejudice - you will laugh. Or cry. Especially when you discover Mrs. Bennet has been locked in the cupboard).

Fforde knows how to keep his readers engaged too - his website is full of fun tidbits and extras, and the covers are superb (at least the ones we get in Canada are - in this case, the American covers suck). He keeps readers engaged, even though it takes a while for the next book to come out.

I may not agree with all his politics, but I do like his books! And this is no exception!

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