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The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series #3)

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series #3)

4.4 68
by Jasper Fforde

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The third installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series follows literary detective Thursday Next on another adventure in her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England

Jasper Fforde has done it again in this genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment. After two rollicking


The third installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series follows literary detective Thursday Next on another adventure in her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England

Jasper Fforde has done it again in this genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment. After two rollicking New York Times bestselling adventures through Western literature, resourceful BookWorld literary detective Thursday Next definitely needs some downtime. And what better place for a respite than in the hidden depths of the Well of Lost Plots, where all unpublished books reside? But peace and quiet remain elusive for Thursday, who soon discovers that the Well is a veritable linguistic free-for-all, where grammasites run rampant, plot devices are hawked on the black market, and lousy books—like the one she has taken up residence in—are scrapped for salvage. To make matters worse, a murderer is stalking the personnel of Jurisfiction and it’s up to Thursday to save the day. A brilliant feat of literary showmanship filled with wit, fantasy, and effervescent originality, this Ffordian tour de force will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse. Thursday’s zany investigations continue with Something Rotten. Look for the five other bestselling Thursday Next novels, including One of Our Thursdays is Missing and Jasper Fforde’s latest bestseller, The Woman Who Died A Lot. Visit jasperfforde.com for a ffull window into the Ffordian world!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The well of Fforde's imagination is bottomless...Delightful." -People

"Fforde creates a literary reality that is somewhere amid a triangulation of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and Miss Marple." -The Denver Post

"Fforde's inventiveness remains a bookworm's delight." -Entertainment Weekly

The Barnes & Noble Review
With New York Times–bestselling author Jasper Fforde as your guide, you're in for a wild and wonderful ride through The Well of Lost Plots, the third book in his hilarious, time-twisting, cross-genre series featuring literary sleuth Thursday Next. In the Nextian world, the borders of time and place, fact and fiction, are thinner than anyone imagined. For the past 100 years or more, there's been a lot of cross-fertilization between realities. As a Jurisfiction agent, Thursday has recently learned that the source of that creative wealth lies in the Well of Lost Plots, where writers' imaginations interface with characters and plots and nothing is impossible. Now, as the powers-that-be in the BookWorld prepare to release UltraWord, the ultimate reading experience, Thursday plans her own much-needed escape. Through the Character Exchange Program, she seeks refuge in an unpublished manuscript in the depths of the Well…and learns that in books, as in life, real change must come from within. Sue Stone
The Washington Post
It's a little difficult to describe the Thursday Next novels without making them sound precious and twee. In fact, they are somewhat precious and twee, but also great fun -- especially for those with a literary turn of mind and a taste for offbeat comedy in the tradition of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, Norton Juster and Lewis Carroll. Indeed, one of the pleasures in reading the three installments of the adventures of Thursday Next lies in recognizing the myriad bookish allusions, some obvious, some very sly indeed. — Michael Dirda
Publishers Weekly
In this delicious sequel to The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, Fforde's redoubtable (and now throwing-up-pregnant) heroine Thursday Next once again does battle with philistine bibliophobes, taking a furlough from her duties as a SpecOps Literary Detective to vacation in the Well of Lost Plots, the 26 noisome sub-basements of the Great Library. Pursued by her memory-modifying nemesis Aornis Hades, Thursday joins Jurisfiction's Character Exchange Program, filling in for "Mary," sidekick to the world-weary detective hero of Caversham Heights, a hilariously awful police procedural. At the imminent launch of UltraWord, the vaunted "Last Word" in Story Operating Systems, Thursday's friend and mentor Miss Havisham is gruesomely killed, and Thursday gamely sets out to restore order to her underground world, where technophiles ruthlessly recycle unpublished books and sell plot devices and stock characters on the black market. Meanwhile, Aornis is doing her fiendish worst to make Thursday forget Landen, her missing husband and father of her child. If this all sounds a bit confusing, it is-until the reader gets the hang of Fforde's intricate mix of parody, social satire and sheer gut-busting fantasy. Marvelous creations like syntax-slaughtering grammasites and the murderous Minotaur roam this unusual novel's pages, and Fforde's fictional epigraphs, like his minihistory of "book operating systems," are worth the cover price in themselves. Fforde's sidesplitting sendup of an increasingly antibookish society is a sheer joy. (Feb.) Forecast: Despite the rarefied nature of his spoofing, Fforde has attracted a substantial and loyal readership. Expect fans to turn out in droves on the 20-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
To quote KLIATT's July 2004 review of the audiobook edition: Another deliciously involving tale about literary detective Thursday Next, who lives in a parallel universe where the Crimean War is still being fought in the 1980s and where literature is the most important thing in the universe. Thursday, as part of the Character Exchange Program, has gone to live and hide in a "routine detective thriller," an "unpublishable" book that is recommended to be "broken up for salvage at soonest available opportunity." This is the Well of Lost Plots, not far from the offices of Jurisfiction. The appeal is not just the plot; it's the imaginative flair of the author for invention of detail...A rare treat. (Thursday Next series). KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Penguin, 373p., Ages 12 to adult.
—Mary Purucker
Library Journal
Thursday Next (The Eyre Affair; Lost in a Good Book) needs a vacation. After saving Jane Eyre, stopping two criminal masterminds, and being hounded by the Goliath Corporation, she just wants to lie low until she can rescue her missing husband. Taking refuge in an unpublished police procedural, she continues working for Jurisfiction, investigating a murder that involves the highest levels of literary police. While Thursday learns the ropes of BookWorld, including managing nursery-rhyme characters on strike and conducting anger-management sessions for the protagonists of Wuthering Heights, she tries to keep her memories of Landen alive and her pulp novel from being stripped and thrown into the Text Sea. Fforde has settled comfortably into series mode, producing another fun romp in an alternate universe where books are more real than reality; there's a pun on every other page and a galaxy of literary and pop references to keep the reader's head spinning. Escaped minotaurs, spelling viruses, problems with software upgrades, and Spam for footnotes all contribute to the fun. This U.S. version includes a bonus chapter detailing yet another of Thursday's adventures. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Devon Thomas, Hass MS&L, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Fforde's third novel featuring English sleuth Thursday Next is an interesting, enjoyable mix of detective story, fantasy, and literature. Thursday works on cases involving the protection of the stories and characters of famous books, which can be affected and changed by people in the real world. In this installment, she enters the Book World itself. Fforde has a nice touch, never pressing on any one aspect of the story, but managing to interweave all of the elements, with a good deal of humor. The use of various literary characters means that it helps to be familiar with the works in which they appear, but, despite knowing very little about Anna Karenina, it is still very funny to read its plot written as a gossipy telephone conversation between two Russian noblewomen. It also helps to have read the first two books in the series, The Eyre Affair (2002) and Lost in a Good Book (2003, both Viking), but teens will want to read The Well of Lost Plots anyway.-Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Third course in a feast of hyperliterary alternate-reality thrillers (The Eyre Affair, 2002, etc.) may prove too rich for some stomachs. Fforde's story takes place in several parallel universes that manage, against all laws of logic and geometry, to intersect at many, many points. Our heroine, literary detective Thursday Next, is the nexus of this strangely wired cosmos. Thursday has just returned from the pages of Jane Eyre, in which she foiled archvillain Acheron Hades' attempt to steal the ending. Now pregnant (by a dead veteran of the Crimean War) and badly in need of rest, she requests an assignment in the Character Exchange Program and is sent to fill in for Mary Jones, detective in a dreadful unpublished thriller. Like all unpublished books, Caversham Heights exists in a kind of limbo in the Well of Lost Plots, a warren of sub-basements in the Great Library where all books are born, but few see the light of day. Thursday works her way through Mary's role in the hopeless plot, glad of a safe job for change, but she soon finds plenty of extratextual distractions that hint at trouble ahead. Within the ranks of Jurisfiction (a kind of FBI of the text world), a string of murders begins to claim the lives of various authorities connected with a new process of plot development. Thursday learns that her late husband is not dead at all but was in fact "eradicated" at the behest of rogue elements within Jurisfiction. Between teaching her "generic" houseboys Ibb and Obb how to cook, fending off hostile grammasites (literary parasites that infest a plot with gerunds), and facing Jurisfiction charges that she changed the ending of Jane Eyre, Thursday still has to find the time to solve thevarious crimes now springing up within and without the text. For instance, who stole the commas from Joyce's Ulysses? Like anchovies, Wagner, and Helmut Newton: will greatly appeal to people with unusual tastes-and befuddle everyone else. Agents: Eric Simonoff & Tif Loehnis/Janklow & Nesbit. Author tour

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Thursday Next Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Absence of Breakfast

The Well of Lost Plots. To understand the Well you have to have an idea of the layout of the Great Library. The library is where all published fiction is stored so it can be read by the readers in the Outland; there are twenty-six floors, one for each letter of the alphabet. The library is constructed in the layout of a cross with the four corridors radiating from the center point. On all the walls, end after end, shelf after shelf, are books. Hundreds, thousands, millions of books. Hardbacks, paperbacks, leatherbound, everything. But the similarity of all these books to the copies we read back home is no more than the similarity a photograph has to its subject; these books are alive.

Beneath the Great Library are twenty-six floors of dingy yet industrious subbasements known as the Well of Lost Plots. This is where books are constructed, honed and polished in readiness for a place in the library aboveóif they make it that far. The failure rate is high. Unpublished books outnumber published by an estimated eight to one.
The Jurisfiction Chronicles

MAKING ONEíS HOME in an unpublished novel wasnít without its compensations. All the boring day-to-day mundanities that we conduct in the real world get in the way of narrative flow and are thus generally avoided. The car didnít need refueling, there were never any wrong numbers, there was always enough hot water, and vacuum cleaner bags came in only two sizesóupright and pull along. There were other more subtle differences, too. For instance, no one ever needed to repeat themselves in case you didnít hear, no one shared the same name, talked at the same time or had a word annoyingly ìon the tip of their tongue.î Best of all, the bad guy was always someone you knew of, andóChaucer asideóthere wasnít much farting. But there were some downsides. The relative absence of breakfast was the first and most notable difference to my daily timetable. Inside books, dinners are often written about and therefore feature frequently, as do lunches and afternoon tea; probably because they offer more opportunities to further the story.

Breakfast wasnít all that was missing. There was a peculiar lack of cinemas, wallpaper, toilets, colors, books, animals, underwear, smells, haircuts, and strangely enough, minor illnesses. If someone was ill in a book, it was either terminal and dramatically unpleasant or a mild head coldóthere wasnít much in between.

I was able to take up residence inside fiction by virtue of a scheme entitled the Character Exchange Program. Due to a spate of bored and disgruntled bookpeople escaping from their novels and becoming what we called PageRunners, the authorities set up the scheme to allow characters a change of scenery. In any year there are close to ten thousand exchanges, few of which result in any major plot or dialogue infringementsóthe reader rarely suspects anything at all. Since I was from the real world and not actually a character at all, the Bellman and Miss Havisham had agreed to let me live inside the BookWorld in exchange for helping out at Jurisfictionóat least as long as my pregnancy would allow.

The choice of book for my self-enforced exile had not been arbitrary; when Miss Havisham asked me in which novel I would care to reside, I had thought long and hard. Robinson Crusoe would have been ideal considering the climate, but there was no one female to exchange with. I could have gone to Pride and Prejudice, but I wasnít wild about high collars, bonnets, corsetsóand delicate manners. No, to avoid any complications and reduce the possibility of having to move, I had decided to make my home in a book of such dubious and uneven quality that publication and my subsequent enforced ejection was unlikely in the extreme. I found just such a book deep within the Well of Lost Plots amongst failed attempts at prose and half-finished epics of such dazzling ineptness that they would never see the light of day. The book was a dreary crime thriller set in Reading entitled Caversham Heights. I had planned to stay there for only a year, but it didnít work out that way. Plans with me are like De Floss novelsótry as you might, you never know quite how they are going to turn out.

I read my way into Caversham Heights. The air felt warm after the wintry conditions back home, and I found myself standing on a wooden jetty at the edge of a lake. In front of me there was a large and seemingly derelict flying boat of the sort that still plied the coastal routes back home. I had flown on one myself not six months before on the trail of someone claiming to have found some unpublished Burns poetry. But that was another lifetime ago, when I was SpecOps in Swindon, the world I had temporarily left behind.

The ancient flying boat rocked gently in the breeze, tautening the mooring ropes and creaking gently, the water gently slapping against the hull. As I watched the old aircraft, wondering just how long something this decrepit could stay afloat, a well-dressed young woman stepped out of an oval-shaped door in the high- sided hull. She was carrying a suitcase. I had read the novel of Caversham Heights so I knew Mary well although she didnít know me.

ìHullo!î she shouted, trotting up and offering me a hand. ìIím Mary. You must be Thursday. My goodness! Whatís that?î

ìA dodo. Her nameís Pickwick.î

Pickwick plocked and stared at Mary suspiciously.

ìReally?î she replied, looking at the bird curiously. ìIím no expert of course butóI thought dodoes were extinct.î

ìWhere I come from, theyíre a bit of a pest.î

ìOh?î mused Mary. ìIím not sure Iíve heard of a book with live dodoes in it.î

ìIím not a bookperson,î I told her, ìIím real.î

ìOh!î exclaimed Mary, opening her eyes wide. ìAn Outlander.î

She touched me inquisitively with a slender index finger as though I might be made of glass.

ìIíve never seen someone from the other side before,î she announced, clearly relieved to find that I wasnít going to shatter into a thousand pieces. ìTell me, is it true you have to cut your hair on a regular basis? I mean, your hair actually grows?î

ìYesîóI smiledóìand my fingernails, too.î

ìReally?î mused Mary. ìIíve heard rumors about that but I thought it was just one of those Outlandish legends. I suppose you have to eat, too? To stay alive, I mean, not just when the story calls for it?î

ìOne of the great pleasures of life,î I assured her.

I didnít think Iíd tell her about real-world downsides such as tooth decay, incontinence, or old age. Mary lived in a three-year window and neither aged, died, married, had children, got sick or changed in any way. Although appearing resolute and strong-minded, she was only like this because she was written that way. For all her qualities, Mary was simply a foil to Jack Spratt, the detective in Caversham Heights, the loyal sergeant figure to whom Jack explained things so the readers knew what was going on. She was what writers called an expositional, but Iíd never be as impolite to say so to her face.

ìIs this where Iím going to live?î I was pointing at the shabby flying boat.

ìI know what youíre thinking.î Mary smiled proudly. ìIsnít she just the most beautiful thing ever? Sheís a Sunderland; built in 1943 but last flew in í68. Iím midway converting her to a houseboat, but donít feel shy if you want to help out. Just keep the bilges pumped out, and if you can run the number three engine once a month, Iíd be very gratefulóthe start-up checklist is on the flight deck.î

ìWellóokay,î I muttered.

ìGood. Iíve left a prÈcis of the story taped to the fridge and a rough idea of what you have to say, but donít worry about being word perfect; since weíre not published, you can say almost anything you wantówithin reason, of course.î

ìOf course.î I thought for a moment. ìIím new to the Character Exchange Program. When will I be called to do something?î

ìWyatt is the inbook exchange liaison officer; heíll let you know. Jack might seem gruff to begin with,î continued Mary, ìbut he has a heart of gold. If he asks you to drive his Austin Allegro, make sure you depress the clutch fully before changing gear. He takes his coffee black and the love interest between myself and DC Baker is strictly unrequited, is that clear?î

ìVery clear,î I returned, thankful I would not have to do any love scenes.

ìGood. Did they supply you with all the necessary paperwork, IDs, that sort of thing?î

I patted my pocket and she handed me a scrap of paper and a bunch of keys.

ìGood. This is my footnoterphone number in case of emergencies, these are the keys to the flying boat and my BMW. If a loser named Arnold calls, tell him I hope he rots in hell. Any questions?î

ìI donít think so.î

She smiled as a yellow cab with TransGenre Taxis painted on the side materialized in front of us. The cabbie looked bored and Mary opened the passenger door.

ìThen weíre done. Youíll like it here. Iíll see you in about a year. So long!î

She turned to the cabbie, muttered, ìGet me out of this book,î and she and the car faded out, leaving me alone on the dusty track.

I sat upon a rickety wooden seat next to a tub of long-dead flowers and let Pickwick out of her bag. She ruffled her feathers indignantly and blinked in the sunlight. I looked across the lake at the sailing dinghies that were little more than brightly colored triangles that tacked backwards and forwards in the distance. Nearer to shore a pair of swans beat their wings furiously and pedaled the water in an attempt to take off, landing almost as soon as they were airborne, throwing up a long streak of spray on the calm waters. It seemed a lot of effort to go a few hundred yards.

I turned my attention to the flying boat. The layers of paint that covered and protected the riveted hull had partly peeled off to reveal the colorful livery of long-forgotten airlines beneath. The Perspex windows had clouded with age, and high in the massive wing untidy cables hung lazily from the oil-stained cowlings of the three empty engine bays, their safe inaccessibility now a haven for nesting birds. Goliath, Aornis, and SpecOps seemed a million miles awayóbut then, so did Landen. Landen. Memories of my husband were never far away. I thought of all the times we had spent together that hadnít actually happened. All the places we hadnít visited, all the things we hadnít done. He might have been eradicated at the age of two, but I still had our memoriesójust no one to share them with.

I was interrupted from my thoughts by the sound of a motorcycle approaching. The rider didnít have much control of the vehicle; I was glad that he stopped short of the jettyóhis erratic riding might well have led him straight into the lake.

ìHullo!î he said cheerfully, removing his helmet to reveal a youngish man with a dark Mediterranean complexion and deep sunken eyes. ìMy nameís Arnold. I havenít seen you around here before, have I?î I got up and shook his hand.

ìThe nameís Next. Thursday Next. Character Exchange Program.î

ìOh, blast!î he muttered. ìBlast and double blast! I suppose that means Iíve missed her?î

I nodded and he shook his head sadly.

ìDid she leave a message for me?î

ìY-es,î I said uncertainly. ìShe said she would, um, see you when she gets back.î

ìShe did?î replied Arnold, brightening up. ìThatís a good sign. Normally she calls me a loser and tells me to go rot in hell.î

ìShe probably wonít be back for a while,î I added, trying to make up for not passing on Maryís message properly, ìmaybe a yearómaybe more.î

ìI see,î he murmured, sighing deeply and staring off across the lake. He caught sight of Pickwick, who was attempting to outstare a strange aquatic bird with a rounded bill.

ìWhatís that?î he asked suddenly.

ìI think itís a duck, although I canít be sureówe donít have any where I come from.î

ìNo, the other thing.î

ìA dodo.î1

ìWhatís the matter?î asked Arnold.

I was getting a footnoterphone signal; in the BookWorld people generally communicated like this.

ìA footnoterphone call,î I replied, ìbut itís not a messageóitís like the wireless back home.î2

Arnold stared at me. ìYouíre not from around here, are you?î

ìIím from the other side of the page. What you call the Outland.î3

He opened his eyes wide. ìYou meanóyouíre real?î

ìIím afraid so,î I replied, slightly bemused.

ìGoodness! Is it true that Outlanders canít say ëred-Buick-blue-Buickí many times quickly?î

ìItís true. We call it a tongue twister.î

ìFascinating! Thereís nothing like that here, you know. I can say ëThe sixth sheikhís sixth sheepís sickí over and over as many times as I want!î

1. ì... This is WOLP-12 on the Well of Lost Plotsí own footnoterphone station, transmitting live on the hour every hour to keep you up-to-date with news in the Fiction Factory...î

2. ì... After the headlines you can hear our weekly documentary show WellSpeak, where today we will discuss hiding exposition; following that there will be a WellNews special on the launch of the new Book Operating System, UltraWordô, featuring a live studio debate with WordMaster Xavier Libris of Text Grand Central...î

3. ì... here are the main points of the news. Prices of semicolons, plot devices, prologues and inciting incidents continued to fall yesterday, lopping twenty-eight points off the TomJones Index. The Council of Genres has announced the nominations for the 923rd annual BookWorld Awards; Heathcliff is once again to head the Most Troubled Romantic Lead category, for the seventy-eighth year running...î

And he did, three times.

ìNow you try.î

I took a deep breath. ìThe sixth spleeps sics sleeks... sick.î

Arnold laughed like a drain. I donít think heíd come across anything quite so funny in his life. I smiled.

ìDo it again!î

ìNo thanks.4 How do I stop this footnoterphone blabbering inside my skull?î

ìJust think Off very strongly.î

I did, and the footnoterphone stopped.


I nodded.

ìYouíll get the hang of it.î

He thought for a minute, looked up and down the lake in an overtly innocent manner, then said, ìDo you want to buy some verbs? Not any of your rubbish, either. Good, strong, healthy regularsóstraight from the Text SeaóI have a friend on a scrawltrawler.î

I smiled. ìI donít think so, Arnoldóand I donít think you should ask meóIím Jurisfiction.î

ìOh,î said Arnold, looking pale all of a sudden. He bit his lip and gave such an imploring look that I almost laughed.

ìDonít sweat,î I told him, ìI wonít report it.î

He sighed a deep sigh of relief, muttered his thanks, remounted his motorbike and drove off in a jerky fashion, narrowly missing the mailboxes at the top of the track.

The interior of the flying boat was lighter and more airy than I had imagined, but it smelt a bit musty. Mary was mistaken; she had not been halfway through the craftís conversionóit was more like one-tenth. The walls were half-paneled with pine tongue-

4. ì... A new epic poem is to be constructed for the first time in eighty-seven years. Title and subject to be announced, but pundits reckon that itís a pointless exercise: skills have all but died out. Next week will also see the launch of a new shopping chain offering off-the-peg narrative requisites. It will be called PrÍt-ý-?crire...î

and-groove, and rock-wool insulation stuck out untidily along with unused electrical cables. There was room for two floors within the boatís cavernous hull, the downstairs a large, open-plan living room with a couple of old sofas pointing towards a television set. I tried to switch it on but it was deadóthere was no TV in the BookWorld unless called for in the narrative. Much of what I could see around me were merely props, necessary for the chapter in which Jack Spratt visits the Sunderland to discuss the case. On the mantelpiece above a small wood-burning stove were pictures of Mary from her days at the police training college, and another from when she was promoted to detective sergeant.

I opened a door that led into a small kitchenette. Attached to the fridge was the prÈcis of Caversham Heights. I flicked through it. The sequence of events was pretty much as I remembered from my first reading in the Well, although it seemed that Mary had overstated her role in some of the puzzle-solving areas. I put the prÈcis down, found a bowl and filled it with water for Pickwick, took her egg from my bag and laid it on the sofa, where she quickly set about turning it over and tapping it gently with her beak. I went forward and discovered a bedroom where the nose turret would have been and climbed a narrow aluminum ladder to the flight deck directly above. This was the best view in the house, the large greenhouselike Perspex windows affording a vista of the lake. The massive control wheels were set in front of two comfortable chairs, and facing them and ahead of a tangled mass of engine control levers was a complex panel of broken and faded instruments. To my right I could see the one remaining engine, looking forlorn, the propeller blades streaked with bird droppings.

Behind the pilotsí seats, where the flight engineer would have sat, there was a desk with reading lamp, footnoterphone and typewriter. On the bookshelf were mainly magazines of a police nature and lots of forensic textbooks. I walked through a narrow doorway and found a pleasant bedroom. The headroom was not overgenerous, but it was cozy and dry and was paneled in pine with a porthole above the double bed. Behind the bedroom was a storeroom, a hot-water boiler, stacks of wood and a spiral staircase. I was just about to go downstairs when I heard someone speak from the living room below.

ìWhat do you think that is?î

The voice had an empty ring to it and was neuter in its inflectionóI couldnít tell if it was male or female.

I stopped and instinctively pulled my automatic from my shoulder holster. Mary lived aloneóor so it had said in the book. As I moved slowly downstairs, I heard another voice answer the first: ìI think itís a bird of some sort.î

The second voice was no more distinctive than the first, and indeed, if the second voice had not been answering the first, I might have thought they belonged to the same person.

As I rounded the staircase, I saw two figures standing in the middle of the room staring at Pickwick, who stared back, courageously protecting her egg from behind a sofa.

ìHey!î I said, pointing my gun in their direction. ìHold it right there!î

The two figures looked up and stared at me without expression from features that were as insipid and muted as their voices. Because of their equal blandness it was impossible to tell them apart. Their arms hung limply by their sides, exhibiting no body language. They might have been angry or curious or worried or elatedóbut I couldnít tell.

ìWho are you?î I asked.

ìWe are nobody,î replied the one on the left.

ìEveryone is someone,î I replied.

ìNot altogether correct,î said the one on the right. ìWe have a code number but nothing more. I am TSI- 1404912-A and this is TSI-1404912-C.î

ìWhat happened to B?î

ìTaken by a grammasite last Tuesday.î

I lowered my gun. Miss Havisham had told me about Generics. They were created here in the Well to populate the books that were to be written. At the point of creation they were simply a human canvas without paintóblank like a coin, ready to be stamped with individualism. They had no history, no conflicts, no foiblesónothing that might make them either readable or interesting in any way. It was up to various institutions to teach them to be useful members of fiction. They were graded, too. A to D, one through ten. Any that were D-graded were like worker bees in crowds and busy streets. Small speaking parts were C-grades; B-grades usually made up the bulk of featured but not leading characters. These parts usuallyóbut not alwaysówent to the A-grades, handpicked for their skills at character projection and multidimensionality. Huckleberry Finn, Tess and Anna Karenina were all A-grades, but then so were Mr. Hyde, Hannibal Lecter and Professor Moriarty. I looked at the ungraded Generics again. Murderers or heroes? It was impossible to tell how they would turn out. Still, at this stage of their development they would be harmless. I reholstered my automatic.

ìYouíre Generics, right?î

ìIndeed,î they said in unison.

ìWhat are you doing here?î

ìYou remember the craze for minimalism?î asked the one on the right.

ìYes?î I replied, moving closer to stare at their blank faces curiously. There was a lot about the Well that I was going to have to get used to. They were harmless enoughóbut decidedly creepy. Pickwick was still hiding behind the sofa.

ìIt was caused by the 1982 character shortage,î said the one on the left. ìVikram Seth is planning a large book in the next few years and I donít think the Well wants to be caught out againóweíre being manufactured and then sent to stay in unpublished novels until we are called into service.î

ìSort of stockpiled, you mean?î

ìIíd prefer the word billeted,î replied the one on the left, the slight indignation indicating that it wouldnít be without a personality forever.

ìHow long have you been here?î

ìTwo months,î replied the one on the right. ìWe are awaiting placement at St. Tabularasaís Generic College for basic character training. I live in the spare bedroom in the tail.î

ìSo do I,î added the one on the left. ìLikewise.î

I paused for a moment. ìO-kay. Since we all have to live together, I had better give you names. You,î I said, pointing a finger at the one on the right, ìare henceforth called ibb. YouîóI pointed to the otheró ìare called obb.î

I pointed at them again in case they had missed it as neither made any sign of comprehending what Iíd saidóor even hearing it.

ìYou are ibb, and you are obb.î

I paused. Something didnít sound right about their names but I couldnít place it.

ìibb,î I said to myself, then: ìobb. ibb. ibb-obb. Does that sound strange to you?î

ìNo capitals,î said obb. ìWe donít get capitalized until we start schoolówe didnít expect a name so soon, either. Can we keep it?î

ìItís a gift from me,î I told them.

ìI am ibb,î said ibb, as if to make the point.

ìAnd I am obb,î said obb.

ìAnd Iím Thursday,î I told them, offering my hand. They shook it in turn slowly and without emotion. I could see that this pair werenít going to be a huge bundle of fun.

ìAnd thatís Pickwick.î

They looked at Pickwick, who plocked quietly, came out from behind the sofa, settled herself on her egg and pretended to go to sleep.

ìWell,î I announced, clapping my hands together, ìdoes anyone know how to cook? Iím not very good at it and if you donít want to eat beans on toast for the next year, you had better start to learn. Iím standing in for Mary, and if you donít get in my way, I wonít get in yours. I go to bed late and wake up early. I have a husband who doesnít exist and Iím going to have a baby later this year so I might get a little crankyóand overweight. Any questions?î

ìYes,î said the one on the left. ìWhich one of us is obb, did you say?î

I unpacked my few things in the small room behind the flight deck. I had sketched a picture of Landen from memory and I placed it on the bedside table, staring at it for a moment. I missed him dreadfully and wondered, for the umpteenth time, whether perhaps I shouldnít be here hiding, but out there, in my own world, trying to get him back. Trouble was, Iíd tried that and made a complete pigís ear of itóif it hadnít have been for Miss Havishamís timely rescue, I would still be locked up in a Goliath vault somewhere. With our child growing within me I had decided that flight was not a cowardís option but a sensible oneóI would stay here until the baby was born. I could then plan my return, and following that, Landenís.

I went downstairs and explained to obb the rudiments of cooking, which were as alien to it as having a name. Fortunately I found an old copy of Mrs. Beetonís Complete Housekeeper, which I told obb to study, half-jokingly, as research. Three hours later it had roasted a perfect leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I had discovered one thing about Generics already: dull and uninteresting they may beóbut they learn fast.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

The well of FfordeÆs imagination is bottomless. . . . Delightful. (People)

Fforde creates a literary reality that is somewhere amid a triangulation of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and Miss Marple. (The Denver Post)

FfordeÆs inventiveness remains a bookwormÆs delight. (Entertainment Weekly)

Meet the Author

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling series of Thursday Next novels, which includes Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and The Woman Who Died A Lot. The series has more than one million copies in print (and counting). He is also the author of The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear of the Nursery Crime series, Shades of Grey, and books for young readers, including The Last Dragonslayer. Visit jasperfforde.com.

Brief Biography

Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
Date of Birth:
January 11, 1961
Place of Birth:
London, United Kingdom
Left school at 18

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The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series #3) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
glauver 8 months ago
Jasper Fforde's third Thursday Next installment finds our heroine camping out in an unpublished detective potboiler while she waits for life to calm down in the real world. Alas, alternative reality is as dangerous as the real thing. Famous fictional characters wander in and out of the narrative as Thursday uncovers are nefarious plot that would alter fiction forever. Only writers from across the pond can make this madcap stuff work. Fforde is one of them. If you need an escape and the usual genres don't work, this series night do the trick. I do think it helps to read them in order; what little sense they make is lost if you don't.
Vgutierrez More than 1 year ago
Although this isn't my favorite Thursday Next novel, I still enjoyed it. Jasper Fforde has an amazing imagination and his writing makes it easy to picture the world of the Thursday Next series. 
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geekchicMM More than 1 year ago
I am amazed by Jasper Fforde's imagination. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, but The Well of Lost Plots made me completely obsessed with the Thursday Next series. I immediately went and bought the next four books after finishing this one. Thursday's newly acquired ability to jump easily in and out of a variety of books is what makes the third installment even better. I can't wait to read the next book. I have already recommended the series to friends and family.
Davids3 More than 1 year ago
I put this aside after 50 pages as not worth the time to read. Silly plot and inane childlike dialogue. Was supposed to be erudite but mostly dull and plotless. Maybe if i get the flu or something and there is nothing in the house to read, i'll pick it up again.
TeechTX More than 1 year ago
I find the Thursday Next books delightful. Fforde has produced a true tour de force in these books, weaving erudite book references into a light-weight dystopian world in which it is possible to wander between our reality (Outland) and the reality of fiction (the Bookworld). Testing one's recognition of the fictional allusions is very entertaining. There are some glitches -- occasional lapses of grammar are very distracting and would not have been tolerated in Thursday's milieu. But a book in which the protagonist is mentored by Miss Havisham and the landscape is policed by battalions of Mrs. Danverses can't be all bad!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An unbeliveably good book!!!!!!!
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