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 And what better place for a respite than in the hidden depths of the Well of Lost Plots, where all unpublished books reside?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.
About the Author
Hometown:Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
Date of Birth:January 11, 1961
Place of Birth:London, United Kingdom
Education:Left school at 18
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 Unpublished books outnumber published by an estimated eight to one.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MAKING ONEíS HOME in an unpublished novel wasnít without its compensations.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
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.
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.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
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)
Reading Group Guide
INTRODUCTION TO THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS
Thursday and her pet dodo, Pickwick, have taken up temporary residency in a run-of-the-mill unpublished crime novel called Caversham Heights through the book world's Character Exchange Program—at least for the duration of her pregnancy. While the pages of an obscure, unpublished novel seem like a safe harbor, Thursday's enemy stalks her in her sleep. Aornis uses her skills as a mnemonomorph to alter and destroy Thursday's memories, which are all she has left of her eradicated husband. Granny Next, apparently an ex-Jurisfiction operative herself, unexpectedly appears on Thursday's doorstep to try to help her battle the mindworm, but Thursday must face off with Aornis, and her darkest nightmares, alone.
It seems that no one in the book world is safe anymore. Thursday reports for duty with her Jurisfiction colleagues at their headquarters in the Dashwoods' ballroom in Sense and Sensibility to discuss UltraWord™, the Book Operating System upgrade that has the entire fiction world buzzing with anticipation. But when the squad heads out to chase down the escaped Minotaur, Agent Perkins's body is found mangled at the Minotaur's vault, and Agent Snell dies from contact with the deadly "mispeling vyrus." While Snell's and Perkins's deaths in the line of duty at first seem legitimate, a missing vault key, a damaged Eject-o-Hat, and Snell's horribly misspelled final words point to sabotage. But at the 923rd annual BookWorld Awards, Thursday alone can stop a conversion of power that will shake the world of fiction to its very core.
The Well of Lost Plots
- Do you think the UltraWord™ plot is a parable about television's effect on the imagination? What similarities or differences do the two have?
- Who is the Great Panjandrum? What is her role in the book world?
- Miss Havisham gives Thursday a piece of the "Last Original Idea . . . a small shard from when the whole was cleaved in 1884." Do you think the last original idea has been thought and dispersed already? Why or why not?
- The Jurisfiction characters argue about the "basic eight-plot architecture we inherited from OralTrad." Do you think it's true that "No one will ever need more than eight plots?" If Coming of Age, Bitter Rivalry/Revenge, and Journey of Discovery are part of the eight-plot architecture, what do you think the remaining five plots are? Which would The Well of Lost Plots come under?
- Thursday sees her worst nightmare when she gazes in the mirror that Aornis holds up to her in her dreams, but it is not the memory of her brother Anton's death. What is it that Thursday sees in the mirror? What images might you see in the mirror? What is the significance of the "lighthouse" at the edge of her mind?
- When Snell tells Thursday that Landen can be written into fictional existence so they can live together in the book world, Thursday replies that she wants the real Landen or none at all. Are memory and imagination powerful enough to sustain a real person? If everything in the book world seems real enough, why would Thursday not choose the written Landen? Would you revive people you have lost in your life if you could? Why or why not?
ABOUT JASPER FFORDE
Jasper Fforde is the author of The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, (both from Penguin) and The Well of Lost Plots (Viking), the first three books in the Thursday Next fantasy/detective series. He lives in Wales
AN INTERVIEW WITH JASPER FFORDE
Thursday Next seems to be descended from a long line of British crime stoppers like Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, and her name is a clear homage to G. K. Chesterton's classic The Man Who Was Thursday. Who are your favorite fictional detectives and how, if at all, did they shape Thursday Next?
Actually, the name wasn't drawn from Chesterton at all; neither, as a reader suggested, from Paris's line in Romeo and Juliet:
Paris: What may be must be this Thursday next.
Juliet: What must be must be.
Friar Lawrence: Now there's a certain text.
Much as I would like to claim either as the truth, sadly not. The real influence was much closer to home and infinitely more mundane. My mother used to refer to days in the future in this manner: "Wednesday week, Tuesday next," etc., and I just liked the "tum-te-tum" internal rhythm of "Thursday Next." It intrigued me, too. What kind of woman would have a name like this? I'm not sure which detective Thursday is drawn from—perhaps all of them. My favorite detective was always Miss Marple, and perhaps Thursday has Jane's strict adherence to duty and the truth. There is undeniably a bit of James Bond, Sam Spade, and Richard Hannay about her, although as character models I have always drawn on women aviators from the golden age of aviation, as these extraordinary characters (Bennett, Earhart, Markham, Coleman, Johnson) had not just a great passion and zest for life and adventure but also an overriding sense of purpose. In a word, Spirit.
You worked in the film industry for nineteen years before becoming a full-time writer. In our society, film is a more popular and lucrative medium than books, but in Thursday's world, the novel is king. Having had a finger in each pie, would you prefer to live in Thursday's world or ours? Did your work in film affect the narrative of the novel?
I think I'd prefer to live in Thursday's world—and I do, six months a year when I'm writing the books. Mind you, if I were a writer in Thursday's world I'd be writing about a heroine who doesn't do extraordinary things at all and lives in a UK where not much happens. And when I was asked in THAT world which world I'd prefer to be in, I'd say... Oh, lawks, we've entered a sort of Nextian "closed-loop perpetual opposing answer paradox." Better go to the next question. Yes, film did most definitely affect the narrative. Because I have been educated in film grammar, I tend to see the books as visual stories first and foremost, and describe the story as I see it unfolding. That isn't to say I don't play a lot with book grammar, too, but I can't shrug off my visual origins. Mind you, I would contend that reading is a far more visual medium than film, as the readers have to generate all of the images themselves; all I do is offer up a few mnemonic signposts. I am always astounded by the number of readers who can describe the Nextian world in profound detail—perhaps this is the reason why movies-from-books tend to be such a huge disappointment.
What are your favorite classic novels?
Jane Eyre was probably my favorite of that type of "literary" classic. Dickens is great fun, too, although to be honest I still prefer Carroll's Alice in Wonderland for its high-quality nonsense virtuosity and Jerome's Three Men in a Boat for its warmth, observation, and humor. Both were written in Victorian times and are classics—just a different sort. Swift's Gulliver's Travelsis another firm favorite, as is Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody.
Why did you choose Jane Eyre for Thursday's first jump into literature?
Three reasons. First, it's a great book. The characters of Jane Eyre, Rochester, Mrs. Fairfax, Grace Poole, Bertha, and Pilot the dog are all great fun to subvert in the name of Nextian entertainment. Second, it is well known, even 150 years after publication. For The Eyre Affair to have any resonance the featured novel had to be familiar and respected. If potential readers of my book haven't read Jane Eyre they might have seen the film, and if they haven't done either, they might still know that Jane is a heroine of Victorian romantic fiction. I don't know of many other books that can do this. Third, it's in the public domain. I could do pretty much what I want and not have to worry about copyright problems—given the premise of the novel, something that had to remain a consideration!
Your novels have been described as a sort of Harry Potter series for adults. Why do you think fantasy and magic tales are enjoying so much popularity right now? Why do adults find the stories so satisfying?
I'm not really sure why fantasy is popular right now, but the tastes and moods of the book-reading public do tend to move around, so in a few years we might all be reading "Squid Action/Adventure" or "Western Accountancy," so who knows. Mind you, I've never been one to make such a huge distinction between children and adults—I have remained consistently suspicious of people who describe themselves as "adults" from a very early age. We all enjoy stories—it is a linking factor between all humans everywhere, that strange and uncontrollable urge to ask, "Yes, but what happens next?" Perhaps fantasy offers imaginative escapism more than other genres. I was very happy when I learned that Harry Potter was being sold in "plain covers" in the UK so adults could read it on the train without feeling embarrassed. "Ah," thinks I, "there is hope yet!"
The Tie-seller in Victoria says, "There are two schools of thought about the resilience of time. The first is that time is highly volatile, with every small event altering the possible outcome of the earth's future. The other view is that time is rigid, and no matter how hard you try, it will always spring back toward a determined present." Which do you think is more likely?
From a narrative point of view, the notion of time somehow wanting to keep on a predetermined course is far preferable. It makes the ChronoGuard's job that much harder. It's not easy to change things, as Colonel Next often finds out. Personally, I think time is highly volatile—and out there for us to change, if we so wish it. Most of the time we don't. Our notions of self-determination are, on the whole, something of a myth. We are governed almost exclusively by our own peculiar habits, which makes those who rail against them that much more remarkable.
If time travel were a reality, do you think it would be possible for people to visit other eras responsibly?
Of course not! When have humans ever behaved responsibly? That's not to say I wouldn't be first in the queue, but mankind is far too flawed to resist wanting to use this new technology to deal with other problems, such as radioactive waste disposal or something. Given mankind's record so far, it wouldn't be long before the criminal gangs moved in to steal items from the past to sell in the future. The ChronoGuard refer to this sort of crime as "Retrosnatch," although the upside of this is that you can always catch the person red-handed after the event. Before the event. During the event.
If you could travel in time, when would you want to visit and why?
Good question! The choice is endless. Since I'm a fan of nineteenth-century history, one of the times I would visit would be during a conversation that took place between Nelson and Wellington in September 1805. It was the only time these two historical giants met. Failing that, the day Isambard Kingdom Brunel launched his gargantuan steamship the Great Eastern into the Thames or, further back still, 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth—must have been quite a light show. Closer to home, I suppose I'd like to revisit the first time I learned to ride a bicycle without stabilizers—a more joyous feeling of fulfillment, freedom, and attainment could only be equaled by the time one learns to walk or read.
Acheron Hades may be the third most evil man on earth, but he's also a charming, seductive adversary with some of the best lines in the book. If Acheron Hades is only the third most evil man on earth, who are second and first, and will Thursday get to face them?
The "third most evil man" device was to hint at a far bigger world beyond the covers of the book. Since I made this rash claim many people have asked the same question, and I can reveal that the Hades family comprises five boys—Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Lethe—and the only girl, Aornis. Described once by Vlad the Impaler as "unspeakably repellent," the Hades family drew strength from deviancy and committing every sort of debased horror that they could—some with panache, some with halfhearted seriousness, others with a sort of relaxed insouciance about the whole thing. Lethe, the "white sheep" of the family, was hardly cruel at all—but the others more than made up for him.
Acheron Hades isn't the only personification of evil in your novels. Just as evil, and much more insidious, is the English government's indentured servitude to the Goliath Corporation and Goliath's willingness to sacrifice human lives for wartime financial gain. Why did you choose a corporation as the other major villain in the story? Do you think a relationship like the one between England's government and the Goliath Corporation could exist in real life?
I like the Orwellian feel of Goliath—oppressive and menacing in the background. As a satirical tool, its use is boundless. I can highlight the daftness of corporations and governments quite easily within its boundaries. Goliath is insidious, but what I like about it most is that it is entirely shameless in what it does—and that no one in Thursday's world (except perhaps Thursday herself) seems to think there is anything wrong with it. Perhaps the fun with Goliath is not just about corporations per se, but how we react to them.
The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of Lost Plots have all been great successes, and I'm sure your fans will make a success of their follow-up, Something Rotten. If you could retire now and live in any book, which book would you like to spend the rest of your days living in?
An all-book pass to the P. G. Wodehouse series would be admirable. Afternoon teas, a succession of dotty aunts, impostors at Blandings Castle—what could be better or more amusing?
An Interview with Jasper Fforde
Barnes & Noble.com: The Thursday Next series blends so many elements -- humor, mystery, alternate reality, time-travel, literary allusions, romance, and more. When you talk to people who haven't read the books, what elements do you think are the most descriptive of the series?
Jasper Fforde: It's difficult to say. Most people I find have very clear feelings on what they like to read, so my opening question would be: "What sort of books do you like?" and then pretty much whatever they answer I can, as often as not, pinpoint a plot device that covers their particular interest. romance, SF, thriller, crime, horror, classical, juvenilia -- but not western. To deal with this woeful omission I have book four open with Thursday and Commander Bradshaw hunting the Minotaur in a '30s pulp western. I called the chapter: "A Cretan Minotaur in Nebraska." My books are very cross genre. Something for everyone. A sort of Swiss Army Book, really.
B&N.com: In previous interviews you've said that finding the right publisher was tough, and freedom to take your story in virtually any direction is great fun. What do you think has been the biggest advantage, and the biggest disadvantage, for you as a writer of a cross genre work?
JF: Finding any publisher was tough! The biggest advantage, clearly, is that there are few restraints -- if any -- as to what my stories can contain. If I decide I want to have Thursday battle zombies or teach developing characters the meaning of subtext, then it is so. It's a very broad canvas. Disadvantages? For me, the series is very idea hungry. The conceptual pace I have set I feel I need to continue, which can be hard work and a little frustrating when the ideas aren't coming as quickly as I feel they should. Most of my books contain enough concepts (such as the Neanderthals) for half a dozen books or more.
B&N.com: What do you like best about writing stories with a continuing main character? And what's the downside? Have you considered using the Nextian universe in projects featuring any other main character?
JF: The upside is that I get to know the characters and they tend to write themselves. I like to string an individual's story over several novels, taking my time, as there is no great hurry to bring everything to a neat conclusion with every book. I can also reintroduce characters from earlier books which I always enjoy. Felix8 vanished in book one but he's still out there, awaiting a possible return. There isn't really too much of a downside. I can write other books and return to Thursday when I wish. The Nextian universe will always be there, and because the canvas is so broad, it would be relatively easy to write spin-off novels about Nextian characters -- Mycroft & Polly, for instance, or Spike.
B&N.com: You've included many characters from literature in the series as significant secondary characters. Who is your favorite so far? Is there any character (from the public domain, of course) you'd really like to include in future books? Any character you think it wouldn't be a good idea to include?
JF:The Cheshire Cat has to rank as my favorite, although I never really penetrate his bizarre nonsequitous exterior. He's a constant reminder of the huge debt we all owe to Lewis Carroll, the Patron Saint of Nonsense. The cat's alternative title of "The Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat" (because they moved the county boundaries) and subsequently "The Cat formerly known as Cheshire" ranks as one of my favorite little idea-ettes. I'll get around to including all my favorite fictional characters eventually -- Hamlet pops up in book four, where he learns a little bit about conflict resolution. Characters who I wouldn't use are probably the better ones, to whom inclusion in my books might be slightly undignified -- a bit like Nelson Mandela doing sherry adverts. It's not by chance that Jane Eyre in The Eyre Affair has so little to do and I only give her two lines -- she's kinda special and should be given the respect a fictioneer in her position demands. I wouldn't use Scout Finch for the same reason, or Yossarian, Billy Pilgrim, or Alice.
B&N.com: What did you like best about introducing the generics (characters in training)? What do you think they added to the book?
JF: Ibb and Obb. Yes, I liked these two. Since much of The Well of Lost Plots is about lifting the curtain on the story-writing process, a little bit about characters-in-waiting would seem fitting. The way that writers create characters is very similar to the way that Ibb and Obb progress through the book. From unnamed, genderless blanks all the way through to living, breathing people with their own failings and uncertainties. Even if a writer doesn't use a character in one book, they often keep them for another. Lola and Randolph (the people Ibb and Obb become) themselves appear in an (unpublished) novel of my own entitled Who Killed Humpty Dumpty -- a novel whose being is explained within subplots in WOLP. My books interlock quite a lot.…
B&N.com: What made you decide to set the bulk of this volume of the series in the Well of Lost Plots, as opposed to the primarily "real"-world setting (with excursions to fictional settings) of The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book?
I love concepts. Ideas are like seams of coal -- some of them are quite narrow and are mined out relatively quickly. The "Bookworld" idea was such a rich seam I thought I would devote an entire book to setting up the logic of this bizarre world. You might view it as a large digression, perhaps, but these books do trace Thursday's life, so I can always argue that the story goes where she goes. People often ask me why I do the things I do, but I'm not sure there is a positive answer. I do things because I think either they're fun and I enjoy them or they just seem right. Too much self-questioning can be unhealthy. I usually navigate a book through the narrative typhoon to Port Deadline with Captain Intuition at the helm.
B&N.com: Is there anything from your personal experiences that inspired your choices of settings or situations to explore in the Thursday Next series?
JF: I was always a big-time daydreamer and still am, only now I do it with ink -- and get paid. My life is strongly reflected in Thursday's but only in the flavor, never the fact, which is just as well, really. Certainly the sometimes strange occurrences that happen to her reflect my sense of humor and how I see the silliness of the world about me, or how I might like to see it. I guess that's where much of the satire in the stories come from. I tend to look at politics and history and people more like live cabaret -- a good form of entertainment but nothing that should be taken too seriously.
B&N.com: What were the greatest literary influences on you as a writer? Monty Python? Charles Dickens? Film noir? The Bröntes? Shakespeare?
JF: Probably the Alice books by Lewis Carroll, as they were the first books I remember choosing to read of my own volition. (Important, I think; the first 50 or so dowdy reading primers are chosen for us. It is a "learning to walk" moment when you have the power to read, and, critically, choose to do so.) I must have been seven years old at the time and was swept away by Alice's madcap escapades and respectful irreverence of established nursery characters and situations.
On subsequent readings I enjoyed it even more -- truly a multilayered book from which you can either just enjoy the story or, on a deeper level, understand the subtleties of the White Knight's "names of names" metalanguage. It is no accident that many of the characters in my books originally appear in Alice: the Ceshire Cat, the Red Queen, the King and Queen of Hearts. I think the mix of highbrow and nonsense greatly appeals to me; Lewis Carroll was an extremely intelligent man and could make humorous connections in his writings that are as fresh, full of genuine charm, and as delightful now as they were in the late 19th century.
But for all that Grade-A nonsense there is a strong and very logical construction of Alice's world. Everything that happens is entirely reasonable given the framework that Carroll creates. Alice herself is only mildly curious about growing larger or smaller, feels only timidity meeting Humpty Dumpty, and will quite happily assist Tweedledee and Tweedledum to do battle. This "compassionate observer" of all that is weird and wonderful and unexpected is something that I try to reflect upon Thursday. There is little that surprises or fazes her; she just shrugs and gets on with the job in hand, an unflappable guide to lead us about a fantastic place.
I think it would be fair to say that I am influenced by almost everything I see and read or hear. All writers are. I just tend to take life's rich tapestry and wring it out into a bucket, distil the contents, and spread it thickly on paper.
B&N.com: What would you say are the biggest differences between the alternate England Thursday lives in and the one where you live? What are the biggest differences readers will see between literature as she knows (and experiences) it, and what is (hopefully) familiar to us?
JF: Thursday's England is a satirical take on the England I know. Clearly, Thursday lives in a totalitarian regime, where almost everything is policed, from the books you buy to the clothes you wear and even the plants in your garden and the taste you display in your own homes. The thing is, no one in Thursday's world seems to notice or make any complaint about it. It's all very much like our world, just more so. Politicians and multinationals are infinitely less subtle about what they do and equally corrupt. But for all this, Thursday's world does have benefits -- for a start, almost everyone is extremely well educated and has a great love of the arts and literature. Not that it makes it any less violent, of course: Football hooliganism in our world is replaced by Elizabethan playwright hooliganism in Thursday's. Her world is arguably no better -- just different.
B&N.com: What do you like best about linking past and present, and factual and fictional elements in the series? Is it the chance to play with characters and situations from some of your favorite (or least favorite) books?
JF: The fun of playing with elements of fact and fiction is really so I can make Thursday's world recognizable. Despite the obvious fictional elements, the Nextian universe has disturbingly familiar elements: bureaucracy gone insane, self-serving corporations, duty on cheese, pointless secrecy, Neanderthals with no rights, political and corporate double-talk, wars fought for the purposes of weapons sales, you name it.
The inclusion of familiar plots and characters helps me to explain away some of the stranger occurrences in classical fiction. I've always wanted to know how Magwich swam from the prison hulk with a "great iron" on his leg at the beginning of Great Expectations, and what was the mysterious and unprecedented "Jane, Jane, Jane!" at Jane Eyre's window that brought Jane and Rochester back together? And how did Shadow the Sheepdog miraculously regain his sight? And what was the truth about Robinson Crusoe's mysterious reappearing trousers? How did Sherlock Holmes survive the fall at Rheinbeck? And why does Hamlet dither so much? It's all good clean honest fun and assumes that all the characters in these books are real, live people acting out the story for our benefit -- but not without their own problems, indiscretions, foibles and adventures of their own, acted out behind the main narrative thread.
B&N.com: Since you use both, how would you compare and contrast foreshadowing and time-travel as literary techniques?
JF: Time-travel. Hmm. Given the chance I probably wouldn't use it again, and what started as a throwaway secondary plot device suddenly became rather more important than I wanted it to. Time-travel, with its hard-wired propensity to paradox, automatically tends to change a once-neat narrative into something resembling a ball of wool a kitten has played with. I have tried to get away from the usual grammar of time-travel, but even so it can get pretty complex. Foreshadowing happens in subtle ways in my books. With a bit of luck the reader won't know they are there before the denouement. Since the books are told from Thursday's perspective, I can't really foreshadow that much.
B&N.com: How do you think your experience in the film industry has influenced your writing most?
JF: Quite strongly, I believe. I spent 19 years in the industry, so I tend to look at things in a very visual way. My love of a large cast and multiple subplots does tend to point toward a movie format, but I'm not wholly convinced they are really very different at all -- after all, movies are closer to novels than novels are to poetry, and radio is closer to theater than movies. But they are all branches of the same "Storytelling" tree, which encompasses everything from jokes through poetry, songs and opera to novels, movies, and theater. Entwining its roots beneath the ground and mutually supporting one another is the "Visual Arts" tree next door in whose branches can be found painting, sculpture, dance, gardens…. Moving from film to novels was not a huge leap, really.
B&N.com: How would you describe the role of the Goliath Corporation in the Thursday Next series? What do you think is the biggest difference between the menace of an evil corporation and an evil individual in fact and fiction?
JF: Goliath is the omnipresent corporation whose servants cause Thursday so much grief. The useful thing for me is that, rightly or wrongly, a faceless multinational has an inbuilt reader's perception of the small guy's helplessness against the machine. Somehow vanquishing bureaucracy has a greater difficulty to it than just shooting it out with a bad guy. The David-and-Goliath plot device is one of the eight main plots. It's "Jack and the Beanstalk" and The Mighty Ducks and The Verdict and The Trial and Lord knows what else. The fun thing about Goliath is that it is entirely shameless about what it does and, in that respect, is actually a great deal more honest than some corporations. Using reader's preconceived notions about subjects is a lazy writer's gift. With Goliath I really don't have to do a lot of work to make it real. In many ways this touches upon a recurrent theme in my work. I contend that reading is a far more complex process than we realize, an imagino-transference technology whereby a writer merely throws up mnemonic flags as a guide -- the reader creates the images and the emotion to go with it. Once a reader has lived for 20 years or so and has experienced the basics of human needs and emotions, most of my work is already done. When a reader credits an author with a fine work, they should reserve as much credit for themselves.
B&N.com: The galley mentioned you're working on another Thursday Next book. Can you tell us anything more about it?
JF: Thursday Next Book Four, Something Rotten, will be released simultaneously in the U.K. and USA on August 1, 2004. I don't want to give too much away, but Thursday returns to England two years later to find that much has changed...
B&N.com: Would you like to hear from readers? If so, how would you like them to contact you, through your publisher, your web site, or by some other method?
JF: I am already receiving more emails than I can answer. I replied to all of them up until about six months ago, when I found I could no longer keep up with it. I'm always on the lookout for Nextian-related oddities, though…
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blurb:Leaving Swindon behind her, to hide out in The Well of Lost Plots - the place where all fiction is created - Thursday Next, Literary Detective and soon-to-be one parent family, ponders her next move from inside an unpublished novel of dubious merit entitled Caversham Heights. Her husband, Landen, exists only in her memories and with Goliath and the Chronoguard on her tail in the real world, the safest place for her to be is inside the covers of a book.But changes are afoot within the world of fiction. The much-awaited upgrade to the centuries-old book system - in which grammasites will be exterminated, punctuation standardised and the number of possible plots increased from eight to an astonishing thirty-two - is only weeks away. But if this is the beginning of a golden age in fictional narrative, then why are Jurisfiction agents mysteriously dying? Perkins is eaten by the minotaur, Snell succumbs to the Mispeling Vyrus and Godot is missing.As the date of the upgrade looms closer and the bookworld prepares for the 923rd Annual Fiction Awards, Thursday must unmask the villain responsible for the murders, establish just what exactly the upgrade entails - and do battle with an old enemy intent on playing havoc with her memories.Review:Once again, Fforde has provided a totally insane and totally fun adventure. I hadn't read this one before, although it was on my bookshelf, so I'm not sure why I hadn't read it. I wish I had done so sooner - although since I didn't I got to enjoy it now. I listened to most of this as an audiobook (which makes footnotes interesting), but after I got the book out to check one chapter that I'd found a little confusing to listen to, I found myself alternating between both media. Today, I just wanted to get to the end, picked up the book and finished it.Thursday remains a brilliant character and well-written narrator and she tells the story of her adventures in the Book World with great aplomb. I'm not the sort to laugh out loud (or not much anyway) but I certainly found myself giggling upon occasion.Fforde's Book World is a well crafted place, complete with its own rules, regulations and police force. The Well of Lost Plots is a particularly clever creation, full of books in progress and a whole infrastructure to support this. I'm sure any would-be writer can relate to the character's fears for their future if their book fails to find a publisher and be fascinated by the development of a generic chracter (all of which attend a school called St. Tabula-Rasa's). The way all the book characters have full and complicated lives outside the times their books are being read and the way various characters, especially those from out of print books, turn up in other people's books is a delight. The Well of Lost Plots is full of puns, literary illusions (many of which I'm sure I missed since I was never an English major) and a very wicked sort of humour. If you like those sorts of things, you'll love this book. If you don't, you'll hate it.I suspect part of the reason I didn't originally read this is that I was afraid my lack of reading in the classics would make me miss too much. I haven't found that to be a problem and I was surprised that I "got" more than I would have expected to. It's not all about "literature" either - there was a great scene in a rough bar down in one of the Well's sublevels that was a direct rip-off of the cantina scene in Star Wars, right down to the ratty human speaking in an unfamiliar dialect (in this case, courier bold). I also loved Thursday's near-fatal trip into an Enid Blyton novel, that proves things aren't all sunshine and smiles in even the most apparently innocuous book.I'll be moving right on to Thursday's next adventure, Something Rotten, and hoping the fact none of my school English teachers ever chose to have the class study Hamlet won't hinder my enjoyment. Eventually, I'll also be reading Fforde's Nursery Crime ser
Thursday Next is hiding in fiction through an exchange program and becomes a Jurisfiction agent policing the fictional world. Another leap of imagination as fictional world comes to life, plots are unraveled, and dangerous creatures lurk in the corners.
This one was a bit different in that it seemed to end many different times but then didn¿t. Loved the ultraword storyline, a book can only be read 3 times; it cracked me up as such a jab at the e-book publishing world. But considering this was written in 2003 it made me wonder does Fforde have ESP?It is also a hard book to review because there are a lot of plots going on at the same time. But I guess we are in the well of lost plots so Fforde had to mash as many in as he could, but it was almost too much. As I said the book felt like it ended a couple times when actually it kept going so this threw off the rhythm of my enjoyment. I still loved all the literary references and the writing still makes me laugh but I didn¿t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the previous books. I did enjoy the addition of the generic characters they are the people in books you just see once, the person passing on the street the shopkeeper and such, kind of like extra¿s in TV shows that can be changed into whatever character is needed for the next book that comes along. And I think Lola & Ronald and Grandma Next were my favorite characters in this one.What I do love about this series is all the literary references and this had them shooting left and right and I still feel that you need to have at least some knowledge of the classic (even if it¿s from PBS Masterpiece Theater) which is how I knew Miss Havisham as I just watched Great Expectations last week. Because I¿ve honestly only read a few Dickens novels but have been meaning to read more (really I have).All in all this is a fun book and I will continue on with this series.Emily Gray¿s narration as always is great she gives each and every character its own unique voice and quality. I am so glad the rest are available with this narrator on audible. Between this series and Gail Carriger¿s Parasol Protectorate Series Emily has become one of my favorite narrators.3 ½ Stars
This is the third book in the Thursday Next series. Currently there are five books in this series with the sixth book, "One of Our Thursdays is Missing", due out in March 2011. This was a great addition to the series and was as witty, entertaining, and crazy as all of the previous books have been. Fforde is an incredibly creative writer that creates an intricate plot, bizarre characters, and a book full of ironic humor. I actually listened to this on audio book which I highly recommend. I enjoyed listening to this on audio book even more than reading it (which I had done with the previous two books), the audio production is extremely well done.In this book Thursday has decided to take a breather from being chased by Spec Ops and Goliath Corporation; she is going to take a year off and live in the world of literature...literally. Specifically she has decided to find Refuge in a horrible book that is in the Well of Lost Plots. Naturally everything gets more complicated from there. Thursday finds that the book she is living in is up for demolition, that she has been apprenticed to Miss Havisham from Great Expectation for Jurisfiction training, someone may be out to kill her, her memories are infested with Acheron's sister who is trying to make her forget her eradicated husband Landon, and she will be living with two generic characters who have yet to form any personalities. As events comes to a head, Next will find that the very fate of all books may be in her hands.This was another great installment in this series. You meet a lot of wonderful new and quirky characters; you learn a ton more about Thursday and the time she spent in the war...it gives you a lot more incite into her character. The pace of the plot is relentless and you never know what crazy book related thing Thursday will be dealing with next. Whether it is Grammacites (Monsters that alter text) or a Spalling Viruse (an extremely contagious virus that misspells everything); everything you run into is interesting, unexpected, and exciting.This whole book is spent in the literature world and mainly deals with Thursday's training as a Jurisfiction agent. The plot points where Thursday is trying to find her husband Landon do get advanced a bit too, but are not the main focus of this novel.I just loved this book and have no complaints. It was smart, funny, creative, well-written, full of action, and impossible to put down. As with previous books the main story points in this book were wrapped up nicely, but there are some over-arcing story points that continue to be advanced yet remain unresolved.Overall my new favorite book in this series. I can't wait to see what the future books have in store for Thursday. I recommend reading this book if you like books with humor, action, and unexpected quirkiness. At points this series reminds a bit of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, but mostly this is one of those series that you have to just read because it is kind of hard to explain.
Quite as good as the first two, Next's adventures in the BookWorld continue with all their imaginative consequences. Plus, there's a baby dodo.
Well of Lost Plots is the 3rd book in the Thursday Next series. This book starts off right where the last book ended. Thursday is taking over for a character in Caversham Heights via the Character Exchange Program. It's supposed to be a pretty relaxing time for her, so of course it's anything but. She finds she's housing 2 Generics, her Gran shows up and informs Thursday she has a mind worm from Aornis that is slowly attacking all her memories, she's still pregnant and is trying to pass her exams to become a full member of Jurisfiction.Overall a good book and worth a read if you already like the others but I would avoid this one as an introduction to the world of Thursday Next. It just is missing something to give it the same humor and impact as the first 2.
TWoLP was by far the most disappointing of the Thursday Next series thus far, and certainly realized my prediction that my patience for Fforde's books was nearing its end. The premise: Thursday next goes to the Well of Lost Plots to hide from her enemies while she's pregnant. The execution: whereas the earlier books in the series were funny and clever, this one seemed trapped by its new setting, as huge chunks of the narrative served only to explain the Well and its inhabitants. The story line itself seemed secondary to the necessary background information at best, and almost an after-thought at worst. From looking at the publication dates of all Fforde's books, it may be fair to say the role of this book was simply to set up his Nursery Crime series. In any case, it was a huge waste of time.
I found this a very entertaining read. It gives "escaping into fiction" a whole new meaning. Makes me wish I could enjoy adventures in books in the same way!
This book, the third in the series, is more like the first than the second. This is a good thing because the first chooses to focus mainly on one major issue rather than introducing a myriad of problems (including a large cast) as the second one does, which gets a bit confusing. This one returns to that simpler formula and focuses on Thursday's adventures within the book world. Of course, the author introduces new concepts which seem to negate other issues in the very fantasy world he has created. For instance, in this book he introduces the ¿Generics,¿ book world beings who have yet to be shaped into a full-fledged character. These beings can be substitutes for other characters when the original is no longer able to fulfill their role. This is a fine plot tool for what Fforde is trying to accomplish in this book, but it raises questions about the drama of the first novel, in which the potential death of the Jane Eyre character is seen as a something that would end the book altogether. According to the new rules laid out by Fforde, she would simply be replaced by a generic. However, if you put aside looking too much at the rules of this fantasy world created by Fforde, this is an enjoyable read with action, adventure, and a few laughs along the way.
This one has a bit more telling than showing, but it got exciting there at the end.
I very much enjoyed this book. I've not read any of the other Thursday Next novels, or any of Jasper Fforde's other books. I will certainly keep a weather eye out for the others. I got a big kick out of the literary in-jokes and the overall wittiness of the plot and scenes. I think I'll keep this one for my biblio-mystery collection.
Thursday Next takes up residence in the Well of Lost Plots, the area of the Great Library in which unpublished books reside.This was yet another zany, entertaining entry in the series. I didn't find it quite as funny as the last couple of books, but it was clever enough to make up for the lack of laugh-out-loud moments. Once again, Fforde spins a great, rambling yarn in which the BookWorld comes off as entirely believable despite its sheer unbelievability. He writes these over-the-top situations with such conviction that my belief was always firmly suspended. I was willing to buy into each and every one of these strange, clever scenarios as they twisted their way through to a conclusion.As was the case with the last volume, I did find that Thursday's own struggles faded into the background amidst all the shenanigans. The novel came together pretty nicely in the end, but I felt that the plot kind of got lost in the shuffle. Not a huge issue from my end, but some readers may find it frustrating.Definitely recommended to everyone who enjoyed the first two books.
Thursday is hiding out in the well of lost plots, which means the reader gets to explore the fantastical world of books - from the inside. Very enjoyable!
Not as good as the first two, but still entertaining.
The Thursday Next novels all take elastic stretches of the imagination. Maybe it's just my mood that determines whether I enjoy one or not. This is one that I just couldn't begin to wrap my head around.
Although it is not as strong as the first two Thursday Next series, I really enjoyed The Well of Lost Plots. It definitely has some really cool concepts about books and reading. The downside of that, is that there is too much wittiness, which sometimes makes the book a bit hard to get through. In the end, I am still looking forward to reading the next book in this series, and I expect to reread The Well of Lost Plots and enjoy it even more then.
I've learned not to read too many Fforde books in a row, because they tend to run together. And, like Douglas Adams, Fforde's brand of humour is best enjoyed in small doses. Still, Fforde fans will enjoy this book, another in the Tuesday Next series.
The story begins with Thursday hiding out in the unpublished novel "Caversham Heights" under the character exchange program, while training as a Jurisfiction agent. She is filling in for a detective's sidekick called Mary, and sharing a houseboat with two generic story characters who are at such an early stage of their training that they are indistinguishable from each other and don't even rate capitalisation when Thursday gives them the names ibb and obb. There wasn't much action in the first third of the book, while Thursday settled into her new home and job and I was getting ever so slightly bored, but things perked up when the minotaur escaped, there was an outbreak of the mispeling vyrus and Thrsday realises that someone is killing off Jurisfiction agents.There were lots of very clever and amusing ideas, such as Miss Havisham running rage counselling sessions for the characters of "Wuthering Heights", but overall I didn't like this book as much as the first two in the series. I missed Thursday's family (especially her uncle's inventions) and her colleagues, and her adventures in the book world just didn't seem as exciting as those she had back in SpecOps.
Not quite as engaging as the previous two books in the series, but this is still an entertaining read. A killer is on the loose in the fictional world - will Thursday be able to work out who is behind the dastardly plot?!
There is something ironic in the title of Jasper Fforde¿s third Thursday Next novel, `The WELL of LOST PLOTS¿ that I think might be unintentional.To loose the plot of something is to go a little crazy to be totally out of touch ¿ I¿m not suggesting Mr. Fforde has gone that far, but the plotting of the story does suggest a little desperation and there are a couple of details that add to an inconsistency that is not comfortable for the reader.Prime is the fact that when characters `die¿ in this book, they are replaced by a look-alike, act-alike ¿generic¿ ¿ which makes a complete nonsense out of the first book (The Eyre Affair ) in the series where events revolved about the kidnapping and threat of death to the character Jane Eyre. If Jane could simply have been `replaced¿ what was all the fuss about?For anyone reading this who is not familiar with the Fforde series, Thursday Next is a detective in a parallel world where the Crimean War hadn¿t ended, where airships cross the sky and where you can enter books, if you have the know how, and hide from the big bad company trying to control the world whilst you have a baby and try to bring back you husband who has been unexisted from everyone¿s memory ¿ except for your own and your nutty granny.It¿s fantasy and funny combined with detective and is full of one liners and gentle literary references.Which points to another problem I have with the book ¿ once was funny, twice was amusing, thrice is getting obvious ¿ the `into a book and reacting with characters¿ is no longer smart, just tiresomely familiar - and Mr. Fforde hasn¿t done enough to rescue the situation.There was one point I thought he¿d done it ¿ he brought in Nemo, and things started to look up but then wasted the character.A final moan is there is no development of character ¿ no one really seems to change ¿ even the `generic¿ turning into a character had an oddness about it which meant they never really changed.Both of the previous books in the series I devoured, this one took time to read. I felt a `so-what¿ several times as I did read and had that feeling in my mouth at the end (the one where you try to eat slightly under cooked, unsalted, un-vinegared chips) which made me want to send it back and ask for a fully cooked version.I shall try the next in the series, but Mr Fforde¿s reputation is on the line.
Continued adventures of Thursday Next.Thursday is now living in BookWorld - The 'real' world deemed too dangerous for her as yet unborn child, both SpecOps and Goliath aren't happy with her. But as part of the deal with the Character Exchange Program she has to complete her Jurisfiction training, and that isn't exactly safe either. Of course Landon her husband is still eradicated, and curtesy of Hades' mindowrm possibly forgotten too. Meanwhile with Miss Haverham and Snell's guidance, she continues to explore the weirdness of the bookworld. Train Generics to have a personality, the Textual sea, Cyrillic Ocean and of course the 26 floors of the Well of Lost Plots - repositry of unpublished fiction. And then shoehorned into the last third of the book, there is the new upgrade, UltraWord, V9.0 of the Book operating system. Promised to enhance the book (as we know it) in so many ways, yet thursday and some of the other Jurisfiction agents have their doubts - can it be that Mr Fforde isn't that keen on the Kindle?The entire book is set in Bookworld - which decreases the opportunity for outrageous puns, and character names. However he still manages to contrive a completely ridiculous "had had had" dialog, and of course there are more references to characters and books than you can believe. I recognised a lot, but not all. The actual plot is a bit rushed - especially the ending, although all the books feature a complex style with many different adventures weaving together, this is too many without the details that could make them good. On his website it's stated the entire book was written in 100 days rather than the 4 years for the Eyre Affair. It shows. Overall - still laugh out loud funny in places, erudite and zany.
I'll give this 4 stars just for the imagination and romp of fun and zaniness that Fforde gives the reader. Here is another Thursday Next adventure, this time with Thursday going into The Well of Lost Plots, exchanging places with a character in a lame book that isn't getting published, so that she will be safe from her enemies, while trying to figure out a way to save her lost husband. Naturally things don't stay calm and composed for our dear heroine and she gets carried away in intrigue and adventure in the WOLP world as much as in the real world.I found it got off to a slow start for me, but there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and lots of chuckles. I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series.
A faint sense of let down here: the first book in the series was unique and amazing, the second spun it off in a whole other direction, but this felt very much like marking time and retreading old ground. Laboured in places; and killing off his best character? Probably not a good move.
Another excellent example of Fforde's creativity. I felt it took him a long time to finally 'reactualize' Thursday's husband, Landen, but it was worth the wait. I did think the homecoming would have been more emotional and dramatic though. All in all, very happy I read it!
This is the third book in the Thursday Next series of novels. I was told that this was a terrible book, actually, so I had my reservations, but it turned out to be great! It certainly won't win any literary prizes, but it was a fun story. I liked it much more than the previous book (Lost in a Good Book) and there were plenty of things that made me laugh out loud.The Book World, as worlds go, is fascinating. Although, I think Fforde gets a bit carried away with it at times. The characters there are flat, but it's intentional and pulled off well. If you liked the Jurisfiction aspect of the second book, you're definitely going to like this one.